Carlos Alcaraz defeats Frances Tiafoe at the US Open semifinals in a battle of tennis’ rising stars.
Tiafoe’s journey from the world’s most promising prodigy to an almost universally reviled player is a tale that could fill a book.
But he’s in it. One of the four players in the ATP Finals who have never won a Grand Slam tournament, Tiafoe’s path in the sport has been anything but smooth.
After winning his first big title in London in 2016, Tiafoe was a star on the rise. He had reached the final of the Australian Open the year before, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in a five set thriller.
But in 2017, Tiafoe fell out of the rankings entirely, never quite managing to get up to No. 5 and he never looked back.
His last eight matches on clay have included losses to the likes of Juan Martin del Potro, Grigor Dimitrov, and Novak Djokovic, only to fall away dramatically in his penultimate match.
And the loss to Djokovic was the single most heartbreaking of them all, for the young American lost in straight sets to his ex-champion and world No. 1. It was a shocking and public failure of a comeback.
It made him look all of the mistakes he’d made throughout his career. It stripped him of his confidence and his ability to believe in himself.
At the 2018 U.S. Open, Tiafoe won his first grass court title, but he couldn’t repeat his performance at Wimbledon the year prior.
After that, he went 2-3 in the three majors, including a loss to the world No. 1, in the Davis Cup final to Spain.
It didn’t matter. Tiafoe was already a shell of himself. He was uninterested in playing matches anymore, as he wasn’t in the mood to go through the motions.
His mind was elsewhere, in the weight room.
When he won the grass court title at the US Open, he hadn’t played since September. After his loss to Djokovic, his body said goodbye to tennis. He looked the same way