How Frances Tiafoe went from sleeping at a tennis center to the US Open semifinals
Frances Tiafoe’s second set of the US Open semifinals. (Photo courtesy Frances Tiafoe)
Frances Tiafoe’s first two sets at the US Open had been a dream come true. Now she’s heading into her championship match with the most dominant player in women’s tennis, Serena Williams, hoping to secure her first Grand Slam title of any kind.
Tiafoe, who won her first Grand Slam when she beat Serena at the Australian Open in January, had just won the title in Miami and was in tears when she beat Williams in the fourth round Thursday night.
But then she was the underdog in her semifinal match against the world No. 1. The 23-year-old from Rochester, New York, had never before reached a second round at a Grand Slam tournament. Suddenly, she was a bona fide Cinderella story.
Tiafoe lost the first set 6-3, despite having a serve as powerful as Williams’, but then battled back to win the next four to advance to the finals.
“I was definitely excited to be playing in Grand Slams again,” Tiafoe said. “Of course the first thing going into the match was I was just trying to play my game and I just feel like I do that [often]. I was trying to play my ground game as well as my serve.”
She looked like a rookie once again.
Williams started off the match with five straight points. Tiafoe didn’t seem to know what to do to slow down the 6-foot-4 Williams, who had a 6-1 lead on the match’s first set and 16 straight points in the second. Williams ended up winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
Tiafoe, a former college tennis player at Miami who had turned pro just two months earlier