For Frances Tiafoe, pro tennis’ extended hiatus came at a perfect time. He was in the midst of a rankings freefall, dropping from No. 47 in January to No. 81 in just three months. His game was trending in the wrong direction, but if you know anything about Tiafoe, you should know that he’s unbothered. He’s the kind of person who will look on the bright side no matter what.
By now you have likely heard his incredible story. The son of a Sierra Leone refugee named Constance who was working as a groundskeeper/janitor (yes he did both jobs) at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland. Tiafoe spent many nights sleeping on a massage table, and spent many days hitting against the wall with what seemed like a different racket everyday. I trained at JTCC in 2009 when Tiafoe was a 12-year-old. He was always smiling. No one could dampen his spirits.
The smiley 22-year-old caught up with fellow DMV member Brett Haber and Jim Courier on Wednesday's edition of Tennis Channel Live to discuss life during the lockdown, his training regimen, and a few of his most embarrassing moments.
“I took a while off when it first happened,” Tiafoe said, “I was doing fitness but didn’t hit a ball for like four or five weeks.” He’s probably played more ping-pong than tennis during the quarantine, as his good friend Reilly Opelka just installed a table in his garage complete with mini stadium seating on the sides.
“I have a good crew around me,” Tiafoe said, referring to his coach Zach Evenden, girlfriend and 2019 NCAA doubles champion Ayan Broomfeld, as well has his buds Tommy Paul and Opelka. “I’ve been at Tommy and Reilly’s house a lot,” he added. “We’re all extremely close, we’re having fun.”
If you were Tiafoe, you’d be having fun too. He wanted to use tennis to change both his and his family's life. He’s done that. He wanted to buy his mom a house. He’s done that, too. Just 22, he is years away from his physical prime. A natural letdown was expected for Tiafoe, who had done so much in such a short amount of time. He might not right the ship for a while, but you can be sure the best is still yet to come for Tiafoe.