WATCH: Tiafoe teamed up with fellow American Jack Sock to hand Roger Federer his final career defeat at Laver Cup in September.


Frances Tiafoe served as the latest guest on JJ Redick’s NBA podcast “The Old Man & The Three,” an appearance that was evidently months in the making as Tiafoe was in touch with co-host Tommy Atler during his epic run to the US Open semifinals.

“In Europe, I’m staying up til 3AM watching the [Washington Wizards], and obviously other teams. You love what you can’t do, right? I’m a crazy hoop head,” the DMV native said with a laugh.

Tiafoe proceeds to open up about his incredible story, how his father’s building and maintaining of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland allowed his children to train there for free—no small gift given his family’s impoverished background and escape from civil war in Sierra Leone.

“They were only doing that, keeping me at the tennis center, to not be in our neighborhood and be in a good environment after school. My dad could watch me while my mom was at work [as a nurse], and we could play a little tennis.

“They didn’t even know how to keep score! But I just fell in love with it.”

That love helped score a career-changing win over Rafael Nadal in Flushing Meadows and took him into the Top 20 on the ATP rankings, but for how surreal his ascent has been, Tiafoe insists it was all part of the plan.

“In life, things do come with a little bit of luck, the stars have to align, but success is when opportunity meets preparation. I had the opportunity, I was ready for it from a young age. I had what I wanted to do in my mind, so I just worked towards it.”

Tiafoe began that work at 11 years old, telling his father his dreams of playing on big stadiums around the world like his idols, Venus and Serena Williams. While a career on par with the Williams sisters feels far off, the 24-year-old hopes to have a similar impact on those watching him compete.

“I want, when I’m playing, for fans who don’t even know how to keep score, or who just never watch tennis, but are there to watch Frances Tiafoe. I also want more people of color to play the game, so it’s about making it more accessible and let people know that’s fun to go out and play tennis. It’s always an emotional topic for me, but it’s what I really want my legacy to be.”