In the world of professional tennis, female players from the United States have found Grand Slam dominance in the last few years, but the same cannot be said about their male counterparts. Serena Williams is the reigning queen of the Grand Slams, but the last time an American male tennis pro earned a Grand Slam was 2003, thanks to Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick. American tennis players tend to rank highly in the top 100, but they have not been able to capture titles in Wimbledon or at the Australian, French or US Open tournaments. This lack of a male Grand Slam has now lasted nearly 15 years, but fans have a lot of hope in Frances Tiafoe, a 19-year-old sensation whose parents settled in the United States after escaping the terrible civil war in Sierra Leone during the 1990s.
Frances Tiafoe fits the perfect description of a fairy tale tennis story. As a war refugee, his father worked in Maryland as a construction worker and later as a groundskeeper at a tennis academy. Similar to many refugees and immigrants who find safety in the US, economic success was elusive for the Tiafoe family. With both parents working to make ends meet, paying for childcare was out of the question. Tiafoe and his twin brother Franklin were welcomed to stay close to their father during his shift at the tennis academy, which mostly served upper class families in Maryland. The twins would play tennis in the daytime and would watch lesson after lesson; sometimes when times got really hard, they slept in the academy’s spa because shelter was not available.
Inevitably, a sharp-eyed tennis coach noticed that Tiafoe was becoming a young natural who deserved pro training. It did not take long for Tiafoe to enter junior tournaments and earn sponsorship by a South Florida academy associated with the prestigious Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). At his third ATP tournament, the Sarasota Open, Frances won his first pro title. It was a great moment for his father, but it was something that the young player and the numerous fans he has amassed in just a couple of years knew was coming soon. Tiafoe’s looks and his personality have earned him a sizable female following at a time when US tennis needs another Agassi.
American cable television network HBO has already profiled Tiafoe, who recently failed to advance to the finals of the Queen’s Club Championships, part of the French Open. He has already lost against the great Roger Federer, but the American is on a steady path towards the ATP Top 10 and a future Grand Slam.