Frances Tiafoe 4R interview

  • def. Grigor Dimitrov 7-5 7-6(6) 6-7(1) 7-5

Q. You were obviously very emotional at the end. When you look back 10 or 15 years, what does it mean to you to be in the quarterfinals of a slam?
FRANCES TIAFOE: I mean, yeah, it's crazy, man. Obviously if you guys know anything about me, the story in tennis, I obviously wasn't a normal tennis story. The beginning of my career, I was playing for them, trying to do everything for my family. Obviously now I put them in a great place. Now I'm trying to do it for me.

Q. You actually talked about changing your life, the family's life. Can you give us a little bit of how that's changed? Have they moved?
FRANCES TIAFOE: 2017, in March, bought a house there, bought a house in Maryland for my mom. My dad is in an apartment in Orlando. So, yeah, that was big. Getting us out of -- you know, just put us in better situations. I was able to do stuff like that.

Yeah, you know, at the beginning, that was just my goal as a kid. I didn't want to go to college. I knew that from a young age. I wanted it and I'm doing it.

Q. You had a few chats with the trainer during the match. What were they about?
FRANCES TIAFOE: Trying to stay alive, man. Trying to stay alive.

Q. Have you had time to stop and appreciate this ride? You have a day off between matches. A lot of unchartered territory for you. You don't seem too overwhelmed by it.
FRANCES TIAFOE: This is crazy, man. This is crazy. Saw LeBron coming on that ESPN thing, talking about the silencer. My phone is blowing up. I can barely use it.

Yeah, you know, it's just what you dream about. I told my coach, Zack Evenden, my agent, Alex, 2019 I'm going to pop off. No reason why I can't do these things. I didn't think it was going to happen right away. This is unbelievable, man.

Q. Second set, the set points down, can you take us into your mindset at the time in the tiebreaker.
FRANCES TIAFOE: I was like, yeah, that's good. Play a terrible breaker. One set all. Came up with a good serve, a good forehand. I forget what happened at 6-4. But, yeah, 6-5, hit a horrendous approach, but luckily it went in.

The backhand, I thought it actually went in. The crowd was just screaming, so I had no idea what happened. I didn't know if there was space or not because I turned my head quite late. I saw he was pissed. I was like, Okay, must be 6-All. He got a little heavy-handed, gave me a double-fault. I'm like, I'm taking this, going to run with it.

Yeah, third set, I had the break, but started to feel my body. But he played a good game to break me. After that, as you asked me, I was trying to stay alive. I was downing pickle juice, having that like Kool-Aid, just trying to get that done.

Yeah, it was lucky for me.

Q. Literally pickle juice?
FRANCES TIAFOE: I'm talking straight up, straight up. Just downing it. Tasted terrible. Feeling terrible right now, man (smiling).

Q. You spoke about your family, your background. Have you heard from people in Sierra Leone?
FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, I posted a picture there yesterday or today, actually this morning, a pic of me and my bro when we went there when we were seven or eight. Haven't been there since.

Yeah, my mom is probably getting a bunch of messages from Sierra Leone, reaching out to them. Aunts and uncles texting me on the WhatsApp, talking about a great job, all this. Crazy, man. I don't even know what to say to you guys. It's just crazy.

Q. You mentioned LeBron a minute ago.
FRANCES TIAFOE: LeBron James.

Q. Did he come on a show and talk about tennis?
FRANCES TIAFOE: No. Don't get that excited. Don't get that excited. It wasn't like that. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

Like, I don't know if you saw, ESPN put a pretty cool pic of me and him -- well, video of us doing his celebration. The caption is like, Who did it better? He commented on that on Instagram, the silencer. The video said silencer. He commented silencer and he put a crown, two muscle emojis. I was like, Clearly he knows who I am now. I was like, That's just crazy.

Q. Is he a hero of yours?
FRANCES TIAFOE: I mean, who -- he's a hero of everybody, I hope. We're talking about LeBron James. I mean, this guy. I'm a massive basketball fan. I can talk about it for ages. I don't want to waste y'all's time.

What he does outside of basketball is unbelievable.

Q. You said you find your phone blowing up, the LeBron thing. Are you looking and searching for it or trying to stay away from your phone?
FRANCES TIAFOE: I mean, I love my phone. Know what I'm saying? That's life now. I'm always on it.

But, yeah, I mean, I'm letting a lot of messages go. Only messaging people that you walk with each and every day. All the other messages, they can wait. The core people that you ride with, that will text you, you started a trip, you didn't win a tennis match. Those are the people you reply to. Not the people that say, Oh, my God, it's been so long, you're in the quarterfinals after Grand Slam.

Those are people you answer to first. Yeah, everybody else can wait.

Q. With your upbringing, I'm sure you saw a lot of people who had conventional upbringings. You probably had every reason to believe you wouldn't make it. Why do you think it was you and not them? Do you understand?
FRANCES TIAFOE: Say that again. You're whispering, man.

Q. You said you didn't have a conventional tennis upbringing. I'm sure you saw many people who had money.
FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, yeah. My academy, a ton of wealthy guys. You got cats rolling in there with chauffeurs, all that.

Look, I'm not saying you can't make it if you grew up from a wealthy situation. I mean, a ton of people have. But obviously that gave me an incentive, a reason to give, a reason to work every day, understand why you do it.

Obviously it's how bad do you really want to be successful essentially. Like, what does that really mean to you. Why are you doing it.

I mean, obviously you make money, and then what? If there's actually something that is more to you, it's easier to get in the gym and do it each and every day.

Q. You get Nadal in the quarters. What do you make of that matchup and opportunity? Have you had any logistical issues having to rebook hotel or flights?
FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, I don't know when -- how long did y'all book me in? I guess they thought I was going deep, too (smiling). Yeah, I don't know how long they booked me. But, yeah, I guess they thought I was going in deep, too.

But, yeah, I'm so excited to play Rafa. We're going to have some fun, going to have some long rallies. I hope I can play on Laver. That would be cool. I guess all the matches are on Laver now, right?

Q. Yes.
FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, that's just an honor playing on that court. Obviously playing Laver Cup a couple times. Getting to know Rod a little. Obviously he'll be there. Playing arguably one of the greatest tennis players of all time, yeah. Just have some fun out there.

Q. What did you learn when you were traveling in Sierra Leone?
FRANCES TIAFOE: It was more my pops who wanted me to go there. Thought I was getting spoiled. He said, You need to get you learned something, get you cultured. Came back definitely thinking different. Came back appreciating everything.

People talking about me and Franklin over there. Oh, you know, you have people making fun of us for wearing PE shirts to play tennis, holes in our shoes.

He said, You guys don't even understand. You guys got American passports, got the opportunity to do something great. Go and do it.

After that, put things in perspective for me. I ain't ever act spoiled ever again.

Q. Seemed like you were struggling in the fourth physically, made mistakes. You had a second life at the end. Did you feel he was being more conservative with the shots and you tried to be more aggressive?
FRANCES TIAFOE: No, man, I don't think he got conservative at all. He was moving me a lot. It was annoying, man. Yeah, slicing down the line, changing direction quite a lot.

I just kept digging. Man, just keep holding pressure, you'll get a look. He's got a good serve, but not Karlovic, Isner, where it's going to keep coming. He'll give you a game where you have a couple seconds, go in lean and try to make something happen with that. You just try to keep holding.

That 4-3 game holding in the fourth was huge, huge. I don't even know how long the duration of the game was, but that was a huge hold for me. I knew I was going to get a look. I didn't want to get to another breaker because anything can happen in a breaker.

Q. You carry yourself with a certain swagger out there. You mentioned the NBA before. Do you pattern yourself at all in terms of your confidence on NBA players aside from LeBron?
FRANCES TIAFOE: It's funny, people say that. I just got that kind of walk. I always walk like that. Always walk on my toes. Seems like there's, like, a swagger to it. That's how I really, like, walk and carry myself.

Pops always said, Carry yourself with some confidence always on and off court, whatever you're doing. I don't know, he just always taught me that. That's kind of why I do it.

But definitely people can feel it on the other side of the court, I believe. Once you start going like this (putting your head down), your opponent can feel that, get energy from that and kind of run with it.

Q. This fall there was the tough loss in Davis Cup, then the fun experience with Laver Cup. Talk about how those two experienced affected you. Did it advance you in a way?
FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, it was a quick turnaround. If I could do it again, how much I love Laver Cup, I probably should have taken that off. Playing Grigor, I was done. I was done not really physically but emotionally. Obviously having something like that, you're putting everything on the line for your country, you come up short, you have to play a guy of that caliber indoors on a hard court in a matter of days.

But, yeah, Laver Cup is a hell of an event, a great event. They treat us like kings there. Davis Cup, it still hurts, honestly. I haven't looked at Borna the same again. I can't wait to see him across the net. I'm going to be coming in, be on him like white on rice. Yeah, he ain't getting no hi's or nothing till I beat him.