MUMBAI (Reuters) – American Frances Tiafoe has already changed the lives of his immigrant parents thanks to his tennis career and the 2019 Australian Open quarter-finalist hopes he can also inspire more black kids to take up the sport.
Tiafoe, 22, was born to immigrant parents from Sierra Leone, with his father working as a janitor at a tennis centre in Maryland while his mother had to work double shifts as a nurse to help the family make ends meet.
He rose to a career-high ranking of 29 after reaching the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time in Melbourne last year and has already made almost $3.5 million in prize money.
Tiafoe told the men’s ATP Tour he wanted to be an inspiration.
“I want to be known as a guy who was caring for the fans, a guy who wants to really build an unbelievable legacy,” said Tiafoe.
“My goal is to help more black people play tennis ultimately, and just to be a good role model.”
After reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, Tiafoe said he had promised his parents 10 years earlier that he would change their lives.
Tiafoe says that while he had to give up a lot to focus on tennis when he was young he loved the game so much it did not seem like a hardship.
“It’s got to be a priority. You’ve got to be able to sacrifice certain things. You can argue I sacrificed doing normal things, just being a kid,” he said.
“But I was having the time of my life, so I was really just enjoying it and that’s all I wanted to do. “I was different than a lot of other kids.”