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“It’s not about where you start”: The words that changed Big Foe’s life

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Bren Gray

Frances “Big Foe” Tiafoe has shared about some of the challenges he had growing up on a recent podcast, ‘Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios’. 

“I literally get picked up from school when I was working and me, my brother would tap the ball against the wall, kind of joke around,” described Tiafoe, whose father moved to the United States from Sierra Leone in 1993 and worked as a labourer at a local tennis club. 

“We’d see the coaches tell the players some stuff. We go to an empty court, try to mimic it, like whiffing serves and whatever, but we’re trying to do it,” he continued.

Tiafoe shares motivation for going pro

The UTS player and former world No 10 in the ATP Rankings, spoke about how he’d often have to spend the night at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland, when his father worked late and mother was on night shift.

“And then my mum calls us, like, ‘Hey I’m working overnight. You’re gonna have to stay at the tennis centre.’” Tiafoe explained. “So, we’re picking up trash, we’re lining the clay courts, we’re doing all this. And I always go to my dad and I’m like, ‘this is crazy.’ He said: ‘look, this is going to pay off one day.’

“I mean then I’m just sitting there, sleeping on a massage table with my dad. If my dad’s sleeping in the bed at the tennis centre with my twin brother, I’m like, ‘I’m going to win the US Open one day, I’m going to be a pro.’”

Big Foe explained to Kyrgios how his dad’s words were a huge motivating factor in his tennis career. The idea of things paying off one day drove Tiafoe to endure a good amount of ridicule as he pursued a professional tennis career.

“We’re going to practice and we’re wearing hand-me-down stuff,” said Tiafoe. “Demo racquets, whatever we can play with. And people were laughing at us, saying ‘oh this guy thinks he can be a pro’ and ‘this guy’s playing with holes in his shoes.’ Pikachu shirts and khaki shorts, and I’m playing tournaments, people saying, ‘that’s not even tournament equipment.’”

With three ATP titles under his belt, plus a US Open semi-final and a career-high ranking of No 10 in the world, it’s safe to say Big Foe has proved those voices wrong.

But the American isn’t motivated by this, saying that he is “easy to show love” and desires to give love, even if he doesn’t always get it back.

Big Foe will be headlining UTS Frankfurt from October 17th to 20th this year, with Nick Kyrgios in action earlier in New York, from August 22nd to 23rd.