Frances Tiafoe made history in 2022 when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas to seal the first Laver Cup championship for Team World in London.
“It was just an epic match,” recalls Tiafoe, who joined teammate Taylor Fritz in the Top 10 this year after capturing his third ATP Tour title.
“Felix [Auger-Aliassime] was playing insane, winning doubles and beating Novak.
“I go out there and I’m holding on for dear life, talking trash, just competing, getting the crowd into it. It was unbelievable. He [Tsitsipas] played a high level and so did I. I think it’s just good for tennis.”
The climax to an unforgettable battle at The O2, Tiafoe’s victory over his Greek rival marked the first time he’d won a singles match at Laver Cup since joining McEnroe’s Team World at the inaugural event in Prague 2017, and a year later at Chicago’s United Center.
As a rookie on the team, Tiafoe’s forceful game was undeniable but he also brought laughter and joy to the bench with an infectious sense of humor and his natural charisma.
“He’s the funniest guy on the team, he has a unique personality,” says Francisco Cerundolo.
“What you see is what you get,” observes Chris Eubanks. “He’s a fun-loving guy, probably one of the funniest guys on tour. He’s a guy that all the players enjoy being around and I know he’s going to make for a great team atmosphere.”
Tiafoe’s natural ability to lighten the mood is a special elixir in the pressure cooker environment of Laver Cup, and the charismatic American also has a gift for harnessing the support of fans. “My superpower is I make people feel good,” he says.
“Frances, he’s electric,” says Tommy Paul. “He’s definitely somebody that you want on your team and not on the other team just because of the energy he brings. He can really get a crowd going and I expect him to do that in Vancouver.”
How it’s going
Tiafoe’s talent has long been evident since he won his first title ATP title in 2018 and reached his first major quarterfinal at Australian Open 2019.
Since his Laver Cup debut in 2019, he has worked his way up the rankings with consistent results, storming into the US Open 2022 semifinals after defeating four-time champion Rafael Nadal.
The Maryland native won his first clay court title in Houston and cracked the top 10 in June after winning his first grass court title at Stuttgart. At US Open 2023 Tiafoe advanced to the quarterfinals for a much-anticipated showdown with teammate Ben Shelton.
“American tennis is doing well,” he said in New York. “You see guys you grew up with doing exceptional things. It’s a domino effect. It’s a great thing we have, I hope we just keep going.”
The child of immigrants from Sierra Leone, Tiafoe was the recipient of the 2020 Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award and says one of his goals is to inspire more black people to play tennis. He is also featured in the Netflix documentary series, Break Point.
Tiafoe at the Laver Cup
Tiafoe is super excited to compete in Vancouver with Team World, the defending champions.
“It’s a great event. One of the best events we have in the sport. Some of the best players in the sport competing against each other,” he says.
“Winning last year meant a lot to us, even more so because we lost so many times. Johnny Mac was adamant the whole week, ‘Let’s not keep losing.’
“Laver Cup tests where your game’s really at against the best players in the world. There’s no, ‘Let me ease myself into this thing.’”
To win the Laver Cup, Tiafoe – who partnered with Jack Sock to win last year’s historic Friday night doubles against Rafale Nadal and Roger Federer – says Team World will again have to capitalize on the doubles.
And while no player can be sure who they will face before the daily lineups are announced, Tiafoe would love to resume his rivalry with one of Captain Bjorn Borg’s most successful players.
“What I’m looking forward to most is hopefully playing Stefanos again.”