How Frances Tiafoe went from sleeping at a tennis center to the US Open semifinals
by JAMES PALLANTZ
July 18, 2016
I’ve never seen anyone make such a dramatic transformation in just one month.
Tiafoe, a 19-year-old with tennis dreams (and a $1.5 million price tag to prove it), has spent at least a month living with a tennis pro, paying for lessons and equipment, while she has been training at the tennis center attached to the San Diego Convention Center.
The most recent was on June 12 — the day after the U.S. Open — when she and the pro hit the road (and slept) in her rented SUV in search of a court in Palm Springs.
On June 18 the pro drove Tiafoe (who was wearing just a tee-shirt and jeans) to the practice courts she uses at the West Palm Beach Country Club, where she slept for two nights, before joining her on the courts for three mornings of practice. After an initial meeting with a group of other female players, Tiafoe started to learn more of the pros’ game plans and routines.
Tiafoe says she spent as much as 90 minutes every day with the pro, learning what she needed to know to play at the top level.
She took it further in the mornings, learning from him a strategy that she uses to score aces or force a game into a tie.
On the last Saturday night of the month, the pro drove her back to San Diego, where she slept for the last time, on a couch with the pro’s two dogs.
“It’s an intense learning curve, but I’m still new to this, and he has been super patient with me and was patient with my attitude and willingness to learn,” she said. “Because he’s been there for so many years, he has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. It’s really awesome.”
The next night, on Monday, June 19, she found herself on a