Madrid Masters 2023: Frances Tiafoe: “Being black in the United States is crazy” | Sports

At the end of the corridor, the stubborn gait of Frances Tiafoe (Hyattsville, United States; 25 years old) can be guessed and as the tennis player approaches, her body gains volume and her shoulders widen until they become a closet. They are 86 kilos and 1.88 tall. The handshake prior to the talk conveys the impact of a stone. Big Foe, that’s what they call him, protects himself with the hood of his sweatshirt and falls plummeting onto the stool. “I like Madrid, yes”, she approves with a wink before delving into her roots and her story, that she is not just any. The son of a Sierra Leone miner and a nurse fleeing the civil war, he found inspiration in the warehouse of the Washington club where his father worked 24-hour shifts. Many days Tiafoe lived and slept and dreamed there. But he did it: fist raised, a black player making his way in a traditionally white world.

Ask. Very few players of his race have managed to succeed in tennis. How difficult has it been to get here?

Answer. It’s great and I think obviously Serena and Venus [Williams] they have had a lot to do with all this; They have inspired many and many who wanted to be like them. We had the example of Arthur Ashe [primer hombre negro que conquistó un grande, en 1968] and then came James Blake [cuatro del mundo en 2006], and I would like to be among those surnames; before there was Althea Gibson [primera afroamericana en ganar Roland Garros, en 1956] and then Zina Garrison joined [finalista de Wimbledon en 1990]So, you know, there’s always someone who paved the way.

Q. The number of black players has grown; six boys and five girls in the top-100. Proud?

R. All this means a lot to me. People of color doing something important in a sport that has normally been white; break the mold and give more people the opportunity to participate. Now there are people who follow me to my sport. I am excited by what we have achieved and what those who come tomorrow will achieve; I have been able to do it and surely many others will. There is still a long way to go.

There is too much violence in my country. People need to unite and finally end racism

Q. What values ​​did your parents instill in you and your twin brother?

R. Above all, they have taught us that hard work gets things done. Put in the work and commit to it; put dedication and believe you can. If you do, you can achieve whatever you want. It’s a matter of almost being obsessed and, you know, taking notice.

Q. Your childhood was not easy, what memories do you keep?

R. My parents had to fight, but deep down, I think I was a happy child. I was good at playing and I was able to have fun, and tennis has taken me to many wonderful places. I loved playing and competing, I never felt bad about my situation. I’ve just tried to seize the opportunity.

Q. What were those nights in the warehouse like?

R. I used to sleep on the massage table and my brother on my dad’s bed. He worked all night, so I feel a lot of pride and, at the same time, confidence and responsibility. There were difficult moments and I remember a lot where I come from; everything I have what I have gotten working, like my parents.

Tiafoe serves during an exhibition, Tuesday.
Tiafoe serves during an exhibition, Tuesday.Rodrigo Jiménez (EFE)

Q. The situation of black people is still very unfavorable in his country. What do you think?

R. It’s crazy; I mean, being black in America today is crazy: young people getting shot, being shot at… Driving and being black can be dangerous. There are weapons and all that, there is too much violence. People need to come together and we must finally end racism.

Q. You have always called for mobilization. Do you consider yourself an activist?

R. Absolutely, without a doubt, but in America we all play our part and I love that.

Q. To what extent were you influenced by the message of Luther King, Malcolm X or Mandela, for example?

R. A lot, of course. What they did was fundamental. There are also Barack and Michelle Obama. but what he did [Mandela] during the apartheid and all those millions of people mobilizing… It’s incredible what so many great activists have done.

Q. You were born in the United States, but your heart is in Sierra Leone, isn’t it?

R. Yeah, I’ve been there like seven or eight times, but it’s been a while actually, so at the end of this year or next I’d like to go back. I need to go and assimilate how things are.

Q. And what about Africa? Time passes, but things do not change.

R. There is no justice, it is very sad. There is too much corruption and poverty is a real deal. Too many dirty things.

Alcaraz believes in himself to the fullest. It’s amazing how he’s handling everything around him.

Q. His country has been looking for a men’s champion for twenty years. Do you feel the responsibility?

R. Well, for the last few years the Williams have been there, but I think now I have the right level to win a Grand Slam. I think I can compete against the best, but in a big one you have to do it for two weeks and for that you have to be a great player. Right now, I think I’m in that space. Agassi, Courier and John McEnroe have all given me great advice [risas].

Q. Alcaraz is intractable. Is there anyone who can stop you right now?

R. What you are doing is crazy. I think you should be very happy to have a player like him, because he’s going to have a number one career. Is special. Despite how young he is [19 años], you have to take into account how you are handling everything that surrounds you… Believe in yourself to the fullest. It’s great to be a part of this moment and see it go up, all that it’s going to accomplish. The comparisons with Nadal? He is he, and he is already. I am very happy for him, for his team and for Spain. We’ll see what happens here; hopefully he maybe he can lose… [risas]. Let’s see what happens. He, like me, likes to put the public in his pocket and go all out; Yes, in that sense we are similar.

Q. His tennis, like Alcaraz’s, generates great energy on the court. Is that the message you would like to leave as a professional?

R. Above all I would like to be remembered as a good person and make an impact, but not only in the game. I want that, at the end of everything, the people and the fans love me.


AC | Madrid

It cost Paula Badosa this Thursday, but she finally managed to get around Elisabetta Cocciaretto (6-3, 4-6 and 6-4 in 2h 30m) and thus progress to the second round of the Madrid Masters.

The one from Begur, 42nd on the world list, managed to escape a bloody premiere, prey to nerves and heat. “Physically I was at the limit. I always put extra pressure on myself here because I want to do well. She had the match under control, it got complicated and she raised the level… ”, pointed out the Catalan, now required to have a hard fight with the American Coco Gauff, current number six in the WTA.

Together with her, Rebeka Masarova (6-1 and 7-6 to Donna Vekic) and Bernabé Zapata (3-6, 6-3 and 7-6(4) to Mackenzie McDonald) also managed to advance, on a day in which Pablo Carreño abandoned (elbow) and in which the name of the young Mirra Andreeva was heard again. News the previous day, by becoming the youngest to win a WTA 1000 along with Bellis (2015) and Gauff (2019), at just 15 years old she was also able to get rid of Beatriz Haddad Maia, the thirteenth favorite of the tournament . Tomorrow he will turn 16 and will face the Polish Magda Linette.

This Friday, Carlos Alcaraz will step on the central, in front of Ruusuvuori (not before 4:00 p.m., Movistar and Teledeporte), and Alejandro Davidovich and Albert Ramos will collide; Bautista (Halys), Carballés (Zverev), Munar (Griekspoor) and Nuria Párrizas (Kudermetova) will also take part.

You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits