Top 10 Reasons Baltimoreans Should Root For Frances Tiafoe

The Hyattsville native tennis star, who is dazzling fans at the U.S. Open this year, is just oh-so loveable.
Frances Tiafoe via Instagram

If you’re not a tennis fan you might not know that a Marylander is dazzling fans at the U.S. Open this year. His name is Frances Tiafoe and he grew up in Hyattsville. Here are 10 reasons why you should root for the big fella:

  1. He’s got a cool nickname: They call him “Big Foe.” It’s just fun to say.
  2. He grew up in Maryland: Okay, Hyattsville is not quite Baltimore, but let’s have some state pride, people!
  3. He has an incredible story: His parents are both immigrants from Sierra Leone who met in the States. His mom is a nurse. His dad was the head of maintenance at a tennis center, where Tiafoe and his twin brother, Franklin, would sometimes sleep. Being around tennis so much got Tiafoe interested in the sport and he demonstrated an early aptitude for it—in a big way. He reached No. 2 in the International Tennis Federation’s junior rankings.
  4. College Park is watching: The tennis center where Tiafoe learned to love the sport is called the Junior Champions Tennis Center in College Park. Every time he plays, students and pros at the center gather to cheer their guy on.
  5. He has an electrifying game: Tiafoe has a big serve, even bigger forehands, and a kind of aggressive, muscular, kinetic play that is riveting to watch.
  6. And an equally electrifying personality: Tiafoe is having the time of his life out there and it shows. He runs back to the sidelines after winning a set, he eggs on the crowd, he shouts with exuberance, and he’s always got a big smile on his face. He even dances when he wins. This guy is a born entertainer. (It’s notable to contrast him with another rising star, Nick Kyrgios, who has a similar game and a similar exuberance, but Nick’s passion often manifests in a negative, aggressive, unsavory way.)
  7. He’s got famous friends: The Wizards star Bradley Beal is a buddy and has been rooting Tiafoe on from the stands at Flushing Meadows. LeBron James congratulated him on Twitter, calling the 24-year-old a “Young King.”
  8. A Black male champion is long overdue: Serena Williams, who retired this year with 23 Grand Slam championships, permanently changed the face of women’s tennis and opened so many doors for young Black female players. But there have been alarmingly few Black male Grand Slam champs. The only Black man to win at the U.S. Open was American Arthur Ashe in 1968 (the event’s marquee stadium is named after him). Another Black man, France’s Yannick Noah, won the French Open in 1983. And that’s it. So this would be historic—and about damn time.
  9. For that matter, can we have another American champ already?: It’s not like the Americans have been killing it on the men’s side lately. Quite the contrary. We got spoiled with the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi, and it seemed like we would dominate tennis forever. Not so fast. The big three—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic—came along, and have had an unprecedented stranglehold on the game. The last American U.S. Open champ was Andy Roddick, who won in 2003. Yikes!
  10. He wears a WHY NOT ME wristband: It’s a philosophy. It’s a rallying cry. It’s a slogan to get behind. Why not Big Foe, indeed? Even if he doesn’t win the U.S. Open—his next opponent, on Friday, is 19-year-old phenom Carlos Alcarez, who many have picked to win the whole thing—he’s provided us with tons of thrills, excitement, and hope for the future. Go, Big Foe!