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Francis Tiafoe is the feel-good story at the US Open — with an inspiring story

Tiafoe has blasted his way into the semifinals with sensational play and an eye on history.
/ Source: TODAY

You may not be familiar with Francis Tiafoe, but you should be.

The tennis player, 24, has become one of the names to watch at the U.S. Open, getting set to make his first appearance in the semifinals of the Grand Slam event.

Tiafoe is the first American man to reach the semis of the tournament since Andy Roddick in 2016 and the first Black American man to do so since Arthur Ashe in 1972, who made it to the finals that same year. Ashe is also the last Black American man to win the U.S. Open in 1968.

Francis Tiafoe
Francis Tiafoe hits a backhand while taking on Andrey Rublev at the U.S. Open.Frey / TPN via Getty Images

Tiafoe, who is the 22nd seed at the U.S. Open, has definitely earned his way to the top, too.

On Sept. 7, he defeated ninth-seeded Andrey Rublev in straight sets in the quarterfinals. That win came after his upset victory over second-seeded and 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal in the fourth round on Sept. 5

“It was the biggest day of my life and I played some great tennis,” he told reporters after beating Nadal.

"Louis Armstrong is LIKE THAT. Thanks for the love y’all were everything yesterday," he wrote on Instagram after beating Nadal. "Truly humbled. Excited to get another week 2 started here in nyc."

Frances Tiafoe
Frances Tiafoe reacts after beating Andrey Rublev at the U.S. Open.Lev Radin / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

He still has his eyes on the prize, too.

“Let’s enjoy this one. We got two more, guys. We got two more,” he told the crowd after taking down Rublev.

Tiafoe was born and raised in Maryland after his parents emigrated from Sierra Leone, leaving the country during its civil war in the 1990s. He trained and even lived for a period of time at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland, where his father worked as a maintenance man.

Tiafoe himself marvels at how far he has come.

“It’s absolutely nuts. Using handed down racquets, handed down shoes and clothes and now I’m in the semifinals of the U.S. Open,” he said. “You can’t make it up, right?”

Tiafoe had shown potential as a junior player.

Every time I step on the court I’m here to work as hard as I can,” he said in a 2012 interview.

As he continues to make the tennis world take notice, Tiafoe also hopes that he can help others follow in his footsteps.

“I love that because of Frances Tiafoe there’s a lot of people of color playing the game of tennis," he said. "I think that’s obviously a goal for me, and that’s why I’m out here trying pretty hard.”

Tiafoe will seek to keep his run going when he squares off against third-seeded Carlos Alcaraz at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sept. 9 and tries to advance to the finals.