By Chris McManes

Frances Tiafoe, who grew up in Hyattsville and College Park, is in uncharted territory. With two big victories this week at the U.S. Open, he has advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Frances Tiafoe signing a ball in College Park at the JTCC
Frances Tiafoe training in College Park on July 9, 2021
Courtesy of Junior Tennis Champions Center

On Monday Sept. 5, Tiafoe earned his first career win over 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Two days later, he downed Andrey Rublev in straight sets, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3. 

Tiafoe is the first American in 16 years to be one of the final four men still playing in the U.S. Open.

“This is wild. This is crazy,” said Tiafoe during an ESPN on-court interview following Wednesday’s victory. “Having the biggest win in my life 24 hours ago and coming back and getting another big win … [is] huge growth.

“It’s tough to turn the page, but I did and now I’m in the semis.” 

Tiafoe, ranked 26th in the world, will play Carlos Alcaraz of Spain on Friday night at 7 p.m. The match, from Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., will be televised on ESPN. 

What Frances Tiafoe faces in the match to come

Tiafoe, 24, was raised just outside of Hyattsville’s official city limits and learned to play at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park. His twin brother, Franklin, graduated from DeMatha Catholic High School in 2016 after playing tennis there three years. 

Tiafoe entered the fourth major of the year seeded 22nd. Alcaraz is seeded third and is also in his first Grand Slam semi. In their only head-to-head meeting, Tiafoe defeated Alcaraz, 6-4, 7-6, last year in Barcelona, Spain. 

While Nadal is the highest-ranked player (No. 3) Tiafoe has ever beaten, he will have to beat No. 4 Alcaraz to advance. 

The other semifinal pits Karen Khachanov vs. Casper Ruud. The two winners will play Sunday at 4 p.m. None of the four semifinalists have won a Grand Slam. Tiafoe is looking to be that man. 

“Let’s enjoy this moment,” he said. “We’ve got two more, guys, we’ve got two more.” 

Read our coverage on Frances Tiafoe and his journey to Tokyo for the Olympics in 2021 here.

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers sports for the College Park Here & Now and Hyattsville Life & Times.