How Frances Tiafoe went from sleeping at a tennis center to the US Open semifinals
Frances Tiafoe is the first American woman since Martina Navratilova in 1992 to reach the Australian Open semifinals.
It’s been 18 years since she lost in the first round to top-seeded Jelena Jankovic on her way to a first grand slam final at Wimbledon in 2004.
Tiafoe, 30, said she hadn’t seen Jankovic’s new coach, Ivan Ljubojevic, since that first encounter in Melbourne.
“She was probably more focused on winning this year. I was more focused on just enjoying my life,” Tiafoe tells the ABC from a hotel in Los Angeles, where she is being treated for a kidney condition following the Australian Open.
The former All-American at Maryland (she was the second-highest women’s college player in the world and a three-time NCAA singles champion) has been back in the US Open since then, but she has always made it through to the semifinals at best.
This year, she took three set games with Jankovic, but they were close.
“I’m not going to say I’m not surprised, but my expectations were not that high,” Tiafoe says today, sitting on a couch in the tennis centre of LAX.
“I would have had to play her a little bit differently in the beginning because she was not playing her best tennis at that time, even though she was better than I was at the same time.
“I just had to be better in the beginning. I could not afford to lose to her in the first round.”
Tiafoe, who won seven of her first 18 matches in 2016 in the Australian Open, said she was not sure how she was going to react when she found out about Jankovic’s new coach following her defeat in Australia.
“I just started laughing because I thought, ‘Now she wants me to be his disciple,’ I said, ‘No, let’s just be friends,'” Tiafoe says in the first person.
“We spoke and we hung out and it was just the two of us and then she said, ‘