Cancelling the “Bash America” Crowd
How did Frances Tiafoe, a child of immigrants, win his match against Rafael Nadal on Monday at the U.S. Open tennis tournament recently in Queens, New York?
Arthur Ashe Did It 50 Years Ago
James Freeman, writing in the WSJ, confesses to his general reluctance to watch a televised tennis match, except, he writes, when it is made more palatable when the U.S. Open is a classic American story: Mr. Tiafoe “provided a refreshing example of grit in a country that is still full of possibilities.”
Watching the U.S. Open can be especially challenging because no matter how religiously one reads the New York Post’s Page Six, the television crew is bound to cover myriad celebrities whom a viewer still struggles to recognize. But let’s hope the greatest influencer of all at this year’s event is Mr. Tiafoe, inspiring viewers to continue to chase big dreams with perseverance.
From David Waldstein for the NYT:
Tiafoe’s uplifting story began when his parents — who had not yet met — left Sierra Leone for the United States in the 1990s to escape a civil war. They each moved to the United States and, after they met, settled down in Maryland and had twin boys, Franklin and Frances.
The boys’ father, Constant Tiafoe, found work on the construction site for the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. Constant Tiafoe was so industrious, he was offered the job of the maintenance director of the facility. He was given an office, where sometimes the twins slept, the better to, as they grew big enough to hold rackets, spend time on the courts.
They both played, but Frances displayed a unique passion, watching the lessons given to the older boys at the center and mimicking their every move, then hitting balls off walls and serving to ghosts on outer courts until dark.
Tiafoe’s Long Journey to Overnight Success
Tiafoe, who had risen to No. 2 in the world junior rankings, has been a professional since he was 16 years old, but had never quite lived up to the hype. His Grand Slam runs usually ended in the first week. He has just one tour-level title to his name. If anything, Tiafoe admits, taking on the role of young American hopeful after so many barren years for U.S. men’s tennis had been too much too soon.
“I wasn’t ready for it,” Tiafoe said. “I wasn’t mature enough for those moments.”
How Everything Clicked
From Jason Gay, WSJ:
Tiafoe beat Nadal by out-Nadaling him: playing physically, returning hard shots with harder shots, and moving his elder around ruthlessly. He pushed Nadal to the wall, and just when Nadal appeared on the verge of a comeback, he pushed harder. Everything clicked…
Why Not Tiafoe?
When it was over, Tiafoe wept. In his players box was his family, who’d seen his highs and lows and all the lonely spaces in between. Tiafoe buried his face in his hands, revealing a pair of rubber bracelets he wears on his right wrist: one in the colors of the University of Maryland football team, the other with an admonition in capital letters: BELIEVE. WHY NOT ME.
From Andrea Peyser, the NY Post:
Perhaps nowhere else on this planet can a person’s natural talents combine with his willingness to work like a fiend reap such rewards. Remember this the next time the bash-America crowd tears down the greatest nation on earth.
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