How Frances Tiafoe went from sleeping at a tennis center to the US Open semifinals
Frances Tiafoe is a two-time US Open champion, a woman with a ton of stories. And now she has stories to tell. Now, let’s go back in time.
Tiafoe was a freshman at the University at Buffalo, a young woman looking for a tennis coach. She emailed her father, Anthony Jr., and the first person she asked for help was an old friend. “A friend of mine has a college tennis program now,” Anthony Jr. said. Tiafoe and a few close friends got on the phone, and a day later, her new coach, Bill Maloney, was on the other end of the line. “I can’t believe that you called—I’ll be right there,” he said to her.
After a couple of months of lessons, the players were divided up into groups and Maloney called each one in the evenings to talk about practice. Sometimes he would send someone else to play with Tiafoe to make sure she was improving. “I told him, ‘I want you to pick me! I’m the new girl and I haven’t even started.’ ”
Maloney was not a tennis player. He was a student, the director of a public school in Rochester, New York. He taught Tiafoe on the tennis courts, and he offered her extra lessons. That was when they first met. She said she was “very shy,” and even though Maloney spoke to her very slowly, Tiafoe would stand at the door to the hallway and listen, smiling. “I was in awe watching him come in after class,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Wow.’ He was so smart, and he knew so many different things. He was the most amazing teacher.” At the end of the second day, Maloney would walk over to Tiafoe and tell her that she was doing great.
The next week, he sent for her to play. “I had never played a tennis ball before,” she said. “I hadn’t even ever played a tennis court. I was completely intimidated, but still he was so calm. I