At the age of 21, American tennis player Frances Tiafoe, the son of Sierra Leonean immigrants is the fourth youngest player ranked in the top 50 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). At the Australian Open, he faced  the toughest match in his career thus far, when he played tennis World No. 2 Rafael Nadal. Nadal won 6-3 6-4 6-2 in their Australian Open quarter finals encounter. Despite the loss, the world saw remarkable glimpses of a potential future champion in Tiafoe, from his incredible forehand, a wide and impressive repertoire of shots and tactical awareness.

Commenting on the match with Nadal, Tiafoe who is the World No. 39 told Tennis World USA, “It was tough. It was tough definitely. I mean, he’s a hell of a player, man. Yeah, I mean, his ball is kicking up like crazy.”

Tiafoe is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young talents on the tennis scene. As a teenager, Tiafoe won many accolades including the US Junior National Championship and recorded success on the ATP Challenger Tour with 9 finals and 4 titles. At the age of 14, the New York Times in a 1000 word piece reported that Tiafoe was America’s top-ranked boys’ player in his age group. At the age of 15, he won the Orange Bowl making him the youngest boys’ single champion in the history of the tournament. At the age of 17 he was the youngest American to participate in the main draw of the French Open.

Tiafoe’s parents came to America in the 1990s when America was offering the diversity visa programme. His mother got the visa, leaving Sierra Leone with the whole family to start a new life that would lead a whole different pathway for Tiafoe.

Tiafoe would later tell the New York Times, “I knew I was going to play pro tennis when I was 12. Tennis is my life.” Having grown close to a tennis court, the Junior Tennis Champions Centre (JCCT) where his father joined a construction crew, Tiafoe picked up tennis.

One of his aims is to motivate and encourage young peeople, paricularly black children to pick up the sport. In one of his interviews, Tiafoe was quoted saying,  “one of my biggest motivations—to get more black people playing tennis.” “I’m just trying to inspire everyone, doesn’t matter what race… especially younger people,” he added.

His rise on the court eventually led him to the biggest tennis experience yet, playing Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open quarterfinal. The rising star is certainly one to watch, and he has the makings of a great player.