Tennis being an elite sport, many of the known names in the sport past and present either come from a background that afforded them the privilege to hold a racquet or have parents who are tennis coach or has a role or influence in sports.
So as the saying goes, some were born into the sports, others have the sport laid out for them but for Frances Tiafoe, the son of a Sierra Leonean migrant, he just happens to stumble on the sport.
With civil war deepening in their native Sierra Leone, Tiafoe’s family in 1996 won the US diversity Visa lottery to the United states of America.
Three years later and with family finances stretched, Tiafoe’s Mum, Alphina had to live with relatives in a one-bedroom flat while she worked night shifts as a nurse.
Frances Sr, Frances and his twin brother, Franklin took up residence illegally at the Junior Tennis Champions Centre (JTCC) near Washington.
Without the proper paperwork in place to use the office as living quarters, the club’s management kept the situation on the down-low.
As a toddler, the brother’s inquisitiveness and closeness to court saw them wandering the grounds, watching, listening, absorbing and, when there was a spare moment or court, attempting to hit.
Tiafoe’s obvious aptitude, and his father’s popularity around the club, gained him and Franklin free places among the JTCC’s gifted youngsters.
As an eight-year-old, it still, at times, felt as if he had been dealt a losing hand when his mates made fun of his hand-me-downs t-shirts.
“I was getting hot and said to my pops, ‘why are we always walking around in no-name brand socks with holes in my shoes?'”
That was when Frances Sr rolled back the sliding doors to show what life could have been like.
He told Alphina to take the boys with her when she attended a wedding in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital.
“That definitely put life into a completely different perspective – the poverty was pretty bad,” Tiafoe remembered.
“We realised that we ain’t rich or living the high life, but we are definitely still blessed. We got food on the table every night, parents who love us, a TV, all the accessories we need. It ain’t terrible, you know what I saying?
“I was definitely not running my mouth after that – I was about the happiest kid in the world.
“It humbled me and made me serious. It came into my head pretty quick to use tennis as a way to help, not only myself, but our family because they have sacrificed so much.”
On the opening day of Wimbledon 2021, Frances Tiafoe caused a major upset as he downed third seed and French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets.
It is the biggest win of his career so far as he secured a fine victory at the expense of the popular Greek, who had been tipped to shine at SW19.
”I live for this kind of moment. If you saw me on the side courts, you might have seen a different performance today”.