It felt like a seminal second within the 24-year-old American’s profession; a end result of exhausting work and uncooked expertise which has lengthy been heralded because the potential way forward for males’s tennis within the nation.
Now, with Tiafoe reaching the semifinals by beating Andrey Rublev in straight units Wednesday, he has recorded one of the best grand slam results of his profession — the achievement made all of the extra spectacular given his humble beginnings.
The crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium delighted within the play of Tiafoe, the primary Black American man to succeed in a US Open semifinal since Ashe in 1972. And in a match the place he did not lose a service recreation to the world No. 11, he could not allow them to down.
“I really feel so at house at courts like this. This court docket is unbelievable. You guys get to date behind me, you realize I wish to play and wish to give it my greatest. I at all times discover a approach one way or the other on this court docket. I at all times attempt to play nice tennis and I’ve been,” he mentioned in an on-court interview simply after the mathematics. Let’s get pleasure from this one. We acquired two extra guys. We acquired two extra.”
Tiafoe’s route into tennis has been in no methods conventional.
Their father, Constant Tiafoe, began working on the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Washington, D.C. again in 1999 and ultimately moved into one in every of its vacant storage rooms whereas working across the clock.
His two boys would typically stick with him, sleeping on a therapeutic massage desk, whereas their mom labored night time shifts as a nurse.
The uncommon gateway into the game gave Tiafoe a chance to begin growing his expertise and, after starting to coach on the facility, he did not look again.
Driven by the work ethic of his dad and mom, he gained the celebrated Orange Bowl — one in every of tennis’ most prized junior tournaments — at 15, changing into the youngest boys’ singles champion within the event’s historical past.
He joined a listing of earlier champions which included Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
It was an indication of issues to come back.
Maturing on tour
Tiafoe turned skilled in 2015 and began getting accustomed to the trials of the senior tour.
He broke into the world’s prime 100 and commenced to say himself at grand slams — reaching his first quarterfinal on the Australian Open in 2019 earlier than shedding to Nadal.
Three years on and he discovered himself Wednesday at one other quarterfinal because the world No. 26, solely this time he felt extra prepared to know the chance.
“Honestly, once I first got here on the scene, I wasn’t prepared for it mentally and mature sufficient,” he mentioned on court docket after beating Nadal. “I’ve been capable of develop and I’ve an ideal crew round me.
“I’m joyful I gained in entrance of my mother, my dad, my girlfriend and my crew and to have them see what I did.”
While he cements himself as a contender on the court docket, Tiafoe can also be pursuing social justice off it.
In 2022, he instructed CNN Sport that the shortage of range within the sport had made him really feel like an “outsider,” and he vowed to proceed preventing for equality whereas he nonetheless had the platform to take action.
He created a protest video in 2022 to lift consciousness of racial injustices after the dying of George Floyd sparked protests internationally.
In collaboration with a bunch of Black gamers and coaches — reminiscent of Serena Williams and Coco Gauff — he posted the “Racquets down, palms up” video to his social media channels.
His performances have even attracted the eye of a few of the greatest names in sport, with NBA star LeBron James congratulating Tiafoe on making the quarterfinals.
Make no mistake, although, that is no in a single day success story. It’s a product of 1000’s of hours of labor and a mentality that will not take no for a solution.
However, whereas the load of a nation rests on his shoulders, Tiafoe has at all times simply centered on making his dad and mom proud.
“With them making an attempt so exhausting, I felt like I did not wish to allow them to down,” he instructed CNN Sport in 2015. “I felt like I did not wish to let the alternatives go without any consideration.”
CNN’s Jacob Lev, Steve Almasy, Will Edmonds and Christina Macfarlane contributed reporting.