Tennis life is peachy for Tiafoe after Tsitsipas victory

By: AFP      Published: 12:27 AM, 29 Jun, 2021
Tennis life is peachy for Tiafoe after Tsitsipas victory
US player Frances Tiafoe celebrates his win over Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas during their men's singles first round match on the first day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships.

Frances Tiafoe said tennis was not always "peaches and cream" but Monday was definitely one of those days for the American as he beat Wimbledon third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

The 23-year-old came to his post match press conference wearing a T-shirt of a fur-coat wearing Arthur Ashe -- the only black male player to win Wimbledon, the Australian Open and US Open singles titles.

When Tiafoe started out, he was seen as America's most likely next Grand Slam champion.

However, the expectation seemed to weigh heavily on the shoulders of the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone.

Monday's win, though, will possibly see him turn a corner at an event where his best showing was a third round spot in 2018.

"I think ultimately it's understanding that it's not always peaches and cream, man," said Tiafoe reflecting on the ups and downs of the tennis circuit.

Tiafoe grew up living five days a week for 11 years with his twin brother Franklin in a spare office at the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in Maryland where his father Constant (though also known as Frances Sr) worked.

He learned to play tennis by hitting the ball against a wall for hours on end.

Their mother Alphina -- who like Frances Sr fled the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s -- worked as a nurse so was unable to host them the whole time.

Tiafoe said that the enormous sacrifices his parents had made gave victory over Tsitsipas an even sweeter taste.

"Yeah, I mean, I overcame a lot of things," said Tiafoe, whose best performance at a Grand Slam is the quarter-finals of the 2019 Australian Open.

"I was a kid that obviously didn't come from much.

"I set out a goal from a super young age using the game of tennis to be able to put myself and my family in positions to live the way I personally think we deserve, with all the hard work they put in, and so did I.

"To be in financially better situations, living better situations, so they worked so hard. They overcame so much."

Trying to eat

Tiafoe endeared himself to the crowd on Court One when, after he had sealed victory, his celebration included miming eating from a bowl.

"It's more so the more matches you win, the better you do, the better the meal is," explained the world number 57.

"It's like, you know, I'm out here trying to eat.

"Steak dinners aren't going to pay for themselves, nice dinners aren't going to pay for themselves."

Tiafoe said he could understand what 1996 Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington had said recently when he referred to being a rare black player on the tour and the pressure of representing them as a community.

However, he added he felt he has enough pressures.

"Pressure was turning pro, being able to provide for my family," he said.

"I'm able to do that. I think perspective is everything.

"But there's a long way I want to go. I've handled my real pressures. Everything else is kind of between the lines."


Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.