As one of the breakout names of the 2022 US Open, get to know the 24-year-old Frances Tiafoe, an ascendant star of American men’s tennis.
For nearly two decades straight, the same triumvirate of superstars has dominated the world of men’s professional tennis world. Now, with Roger Federer on the tail end of an indomitable career, Novak Djokovic facing an off-court battle with health protocols, and Rafael Nadal’s facing a recent dip in form, there’s a clear opening for someone to ascend as the new face of the men’s singles game.
Frances Tiafoe is making an increasingly compelling argument, with his most recent star turn coming on Sept. 5 when he took down Nadal, the No. 2 player in the world, at the 2022 US Open.
Tiafoe went pro in 2015, so the 24-year-old isn’t exactly new to the Grand Slam stage. But his win against a renowned veteran in four sets at Flushing Meadows proves one major fact: this son of Sierra Leonean immigrants has the potential to be one of the elite competitors who ultimately takes the torch from the “Big Three” on the way to becoming one of the most successful, celebrated figures in the sport.
The Frances Tiafoe Brand
Hometown: Hyattsville, Maryland
After previously working with Adidas, Frances Tiafoe joined Nike in 2016. In terms of equipment, Tiafoe plays exclusively with a Yonex racquet. The Maryland native said he was first attracted to gear from the Japanese brand because of its “unique head shape.” After playing with the ISOMETRIC, he complimented the product’s ability to provide more control while hitting and “play more aggressively.”
Most recently, he and fellow stars Venus Williams and Taylor Fritz joined with online therapy platform BetterHelp to expand access to mental health and wellness services.
Tiafoe’s Career Accomplishments
Professional singles record: 123-127
Career ATP wins: 1 (2018 Delray Beach Open)
World ATP Ranking: 26
Career-high ranking: 24
Best Grand Slam finishes: Australian Open — quarterfinals, 2019; French Open — second round, 2022; Wimbledon — fourth round, 2022; US Open — semifinals, 2022
Additional honors: 2020 ATP Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award
Tiafoe and Nadal previously went head-to-head in the 2019 Australian Open quarterfinals, but the Spaniard got the best of the Maryland native in straight sets. And while his endorsement portfolio doesn’t exactly measure up to Rafa’s, you can expect big names in countless industries to come calling if he lifts the 2022 US Open trophy.
What immediately sets Tiafoe apart from today’s competition is his playing style. By comparison, his forehand veers on the unconventional side; by spending significant time mimicking fellow athletes’ styles, he realized the technique was no longer his strong suit. It took hours of trial and error and hitting balls against walls for a signature forehand finally take shape, but take shape it did.
As a result, the mechanics of his stroke are not exactly a norm, but they’re part of what sets Tiafore apart from the rest. The fact that he doesn’t aspire to be anyone that competed before him has quickly become the essence of his personal brand and growing charisma among fans far beyond just the US.
After a strong finish in 2021, Tiafoe’s fitness took a dip after he announced an indefinite leave to deal with an elbow injury, but after barely a month away, he made a triumphant return to the tour, grinding his way to the Round of 32 at Indian Wells despite playing at well belong 100%. These days, LeBron James’ eventual backing feels like a cherry on top, but as his star continues to rise, the Lakers’ future Hall of Famer will be far from the only GOAT-level superstar paying respects to “Big Foe.”