Frances Tiafoe is well and truly on the rise. The 25-year-old American, fresh off becoming the first American man to reach the US Open semifinals since Andy Roddick in 2006, is high on confidence, and playing the best tennis of his life. He spoke with BNPParibasopen.com about his Round of 16 victory over Alejandro Tabilo, his biggest milestones, what it’s like to be a part of a thriving group of American men on the rise, and why he is ready to make more breakthroughs in the very near future…
Q: Great win today, congrats, nice to pick up another one on home soil.
Q: It was a bit tricky early today in your match? Alejandro is a hell of a player and he came out firing…
Tiafoe: Yeah, it’s tough playing guys that you don’t see play all the time. Obviously he plays a lot on clay, on and off the tour and challengers, so I was kind of feeling my way around in the beginning. I didn’t make many first serves in my opening game and he was swinging.
But yes, once I got that hold at 3-0 it was one-way traffic.
Q: Do you feel like you’re confident in situations like that because of all the good things that have been happening in your career, and all the positive momentum? You go down 3-0 early, and it’s not a big deal?
Tiafoe: No, I wasn’t panicking. Maybe I was panicking a little bit when I was down break point for 4-0, I was like ‘damn I really need to get out of this game, at least keep it at one break to give myself a chance’. But yeah, once that happened, and I held there for 3-1, I was pretty good.
But I think it was also good to get in some tough situations because my first two matches before that were one-way traffic from the word go. With [Cameron Norrie, his quarterfinal opponent] it’s going to be tough, so to be in a tough position like that is good for me, honestly.
Q: If we look ahead to Cam, you lost to him at Delray Beach two years ago. That feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
Tiafoe: Different situations for both of us. He’s a Wimbledon semifinalist, he’s a champion here. He’s had a totally different career since then. And so have I. I’ve won a lot of matches and I’m playing some of the best tennis of my life and so is he, so it should be a great contest and I’m just ready for it.
Q: I was talking to Taylor Fritz today and he told me that you have been more mature, more confident, and able to win a lot of close matches that in the past may have not gone your way. Would you say that’s an accurate assessment?
Tiafoe: Yes, I just think the biggest thing is maturity, honestly. Just more locked in with the day-to-day process. My game was always there, I was one of the first guys to make quarters at a Slam, at a young age. Learning how to handle it was different, for me. I feel like I had a lot of expectations on me at a young age, and I didn’t really know how to handle it. I didn’t really know how to take it on.
But now I have a good team around me and I’m just comfortable with who I am, I’m comfortable with my game and just confident overall.
Q: Would you be able to compare the experience of reaching the Australian Open quarterfinal in 2019 and going to the US Open semifinal in 2022.
Tiafoe: Absolutely not.
Q: You can’t even compare it, right?
Tiafoe: It’s not even a close comparison. I became known on the world stage because of the US Open. I think with the Australian Open, I got some recognition but not much. My life changed dramatically [from the US Open], from the things I’m doing, from the deals I’ve had. Rooms I’ve been in. You literally turn a celebrity overnight just because of that win over Rafa [in the round of 16, en route to a semifinal]. That day especially, it changed my life.
Again, I’m older, I’ve been through the bad times, so I’ve been able to take it for what it was, and I’m cool with it. It’s not getting into my head. Tennis is still the main thing and I just want to be out here winning tennis matches.
Q: Would you say it’s made you a better player, what happened last summer at the US Open? More bulletproof, more confident?
Tiafoe: Yes, my confidence has snowballed. I know what to do to get ready, I know what I need, and I know that when I’m dialed in I’m one of the best players in the world and I’m a tough out in that sense. Since New York I’ve been a totally different player and I hold it on my shoulders.
Q: Last time you were here at Indian Wells, you were fresh off an injury and starting the 2022 season slow. You had an elbow injury. This year it’s a way different version of you. How good are you feeling?
Tiafoe: As good as I’ve felt honestly. Last year it was pretty much my first tournament of the year. I went to Australia last year, but I was definitely injured and took a bunch of time off, about six weeks and started here last year. It was totally different – what did I lose in round two? Now, totally different circumstance. I’m in the quarters with a chance to play for the semis, so pretty excited.
Q: Overall how do you feel about playing at Indian Wells? The conditions can be tricky – do they suit you?
Tiafoe: I wouldn’t say it suits me, I mean if it’s warm it suits me because I can get a little bounce on the ball, but it’s harder when it’s overcast. But I think it’s playing at home that suits me. I think I can get the crowd behind me. They are excited to see me play, they want to see me perform, so I think in that sense, yes, and when I play with a crowd behind me, no matter what the surface is, I play well. I think in that sense it’s big.
Q: Can you take me through your relationship with your coach Wayne Ferreira a bit? He seems like he really understands you well and is on the same page as you, and is locked into who you are and where you want to go.
Tiafoe: Yes, we have a special relationship. We’re very different. I’m really outgoing, and he’s reserved and very process oriented. He’s very about his business. I think it’s good for me to have him around and to keep me on the straight and narrow. Keeping on the process and keeping me on the goal and holding me accountable.
Hopefully it’s a relationship that lasts a long time. We are doing some great things. He doesn’t get too high or too low after wins, we’re onto the next thing. I think that’s the biggest thing, that he doesn’t get too high after wins. He wants to keep going. Just keep going. That’s the thing. Being satisfied is not really the thing.
Q: In the state you are in right now, with your confidence, do you feel like any tournament you enter you can win – Masters 1000, Slams, whatever?
Tiafoe: I think it’s an open field for a lot of guys, I mean yeah, why not? We don’t necessarily have the big three at every tournament, with Federer retiring, Rafa, obviously he’s still brutal on the clay, but with his injuries it has been tough. Novak’s still brutal, but I think everyone after that is beatable. We have a group of like 15 guys that are playing at a really high level that can win anything. Alcaraz, Tsitsipas, Rublev, Medvedev, Zverev is playing much better again, Fritz, myself, Berrettini, Sinner, there’s so many guys who can win big events.
I think tennis is in a great place in that sense. Who’s gonna be that guy? Alcaraz has kind of taken that lead, but I think there’s a lot of guys that could follow, so I think it’s an exciting time.
Sorry – I forgot about Nick Kyrgios, who’s a great tennis player. Yeah, it’s fun to be a part of this new generation and to see how everything shakes out.
Q: Last question, about the American men. You say it’s fun to be a part of the new generation, what about being a part of a thriving group with so much depth and a great competitive culture?
Tiafoe: It’s great. It’s good for tennis, when you see Americans do well. I think that’s always been the thing: which American guy is going to be the next one to win a Slam? It’s gonna happen. It’s just a matter of time. Taylor’s No.5 in the world. I’m knocking on the door of the Top 10, so is Tommy, he’s right behind me.
It’s cool because we all grew up together. I was playing Tommy in under 12s. Fritz, under 14s, so for us to see each other doing this at the highest level and beating top guys and playing each other in big matches, it’s super cool. At the end of the day, whoever wins and loses, you are just happy for that guy.
Obviously you want to be the guy that wins, but you can sleep at night knowing that one of the guys is going through.
Q: And you all inspire each other…
Tiafoe: Yeah. Seeing Tommy and Fritz have that battle in Acapulco, and Tommy winning to play the final. We’re always just trying to one-up each other and it’s all good blood. These guys win and I’m always the first to text these guys congrats and stuff – it’s just good stuff.