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Tiafoe pinpoints the moment his career began to turn around

The American is through to his first Masters 1000 semi-final but is setting his sights on winning a Grand Slam title

Frances Tiafoe Indian Wells 2023 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

When Frances Tiafoe broke through on Tour, the hype was immediate. Here, people said, was the next American men’s champion.

Considering that the US has not had a Grand Slam men’s singles champion since Andy Roddick won the US Open in 2003, the pressure was immense. Not surprisingly, Tiafoe struggled to deal with the attention and expectation.

Fast forward to 2023 and the 25-year-old is through to his first Masters 1000 semi-final in Indian Wells, building on an impressive 2022, when he made finals in Estoril and Tokyo and reached his first Grand Slam semi-final, at the US Open, ending the year ranked inside the top 20 for the first time.

But it was back in 2021, Tiafoe says, when he really began to believe he could cut it at the top, after a week when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, Diego Schwartzman and Jannik Sinner to reach the final, only missing out on the title to an in-form Alexander Zverev.

“You could probably say maybe the Vienna run, maybe,” he told reporters in Indian Wells. “Beat a lot of quality guys that week. Then started 2022 with some injuries. You know, that was tough. Probably that week where I was like, Okay, I can play with these guys for real when I’m locked in.”

Tiafoe admits it took him time to cope with the expectations.

“You’ve got to think, right, you know, I’m a guy came from very humble beginnings. I came on the scene, I was 18 years old, 19 years old, in top 100. Guys thinking I’m gonna be the guy to do it, X, Y, and Z, American hope, blah, blah, blah. It was tough. I don’t think I was really ready for it,” he said.

“I was a young guy having money, I was enjoying my life, you know, outside activities and stuff like that. Now I just honed it in.”

Frances Tiafoe Indian Wells 2023
Frances Tiafoe Indian Wells 2023 Image Credit: Icon / SMI / Panoramic

Ferreira’s influence beginning to show

Tiafoe has been working with former top 10 star Wayne Ferreira since March 2020, but after coming through the pandemic, when the Tour shut down for several months, the pair only really began to see results in 2021 and 2022.

The American said Ferreira helped him see what he was capable of and what he needs to do.

“I think the main thing was, you know, these guys ahead of me, seeing guys I grew up with, playing juniors with, Andrey (Rublev), Zverev, Tsitsipas, am I just gonna let these guys take all the money out here for years to come?” he said.

“Because, I mean, I played these guys and beat them on the odd occasion, but I just wasn’t doing these kind of things and winning consistent matches. I was like, alright, I mean, something’s gotta give here.

“And I love this game too much to not figure it out. Hiring Wayne, he’s getting a tight team around me. Just holding myself accountable and just having that curiosity of how good I can be at this game. I got a gift from the man above and I just want to see what I can do with this game. I owe it a lot.”

Tiafoe: “I want to win a Grand Slam”

Tiafoe plays Daniil Medvedev for a place in the final in Indian Wells but the American has big goals in the sport, even if he has only one title to his name so far, having won in Delray Beach in 2018.

“To win a Grand Slam,” he said, when asked what he would most like to achieve. “Be No 1 in the world, great, but if I can walk away from the game, I won a slam, I will sleep totally well at night. No one’s gonna tell me shit. I’m gonna be, Oh, I’m a Grand Slam champion. I will be pumped. Preferably US Open.

“Yeah, that’s to go. And I’m in semis at Indian Wells, so why not try to win Indian Wells first? (But) I mean, I think that’s the one thing I want to actually, to win a Grand Slam.”

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