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September 3, 2020

Frances Tiafoe

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

F. TIAFOE/J. Millman

7-6, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you just address your match today? A tough-fought five-set match that had some adversity in it. Can you just give us your perspective on the match today?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, John's tough, one of the best competitors in our sport, if you ask me. He really puts guys to the brink.

I knew he was going to be tough today. I came up with him great. Somehow lose both my serves in the breaker, and then played a loose, like, couple loose games in the second, played a horrible third set.

I was, like, kind of ended up working for me better because I saved the energy because I was kind of tapped out a little bit. Then I gave my all in two sets. I told my coach I'm going to go dumb for two sets. That's what happened.

Q. Third round at the Open. That's pretty awesome. Would you just tell me how you felt in the fourth set there when you were broken at 4-2. It didn't look good for you. Physically did you feel okay?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, no, I mean, I felt fine physically. 4-2, still on serve, I'm still up, he's still following me. I was returning well, so I was like if I can sneak out a break, stay here mentally, don't go anywhere mentally. Stay tapped in. If I can hit a couple -- I know I could hit a couple screamers at any moment. I did.

Ended up putting a good game together. Then great game to serve it out.

Q. Were you worried at all since you had the virus that maybe physically that you weren't on top of things, or are you completely recovered from that?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm cool. Obviously, you know, some of the other players had it pretty bad. Losing taste, losing smell. Physically when they were coming back they were struggling a lot.

Actually my virus was pretty mild, thankfully, me and my brother. My brother had no symptoms at all. I just had diarrhea and headaches for three days. So I was okay. During those three days I would be like make conversation and I'd fall asleep, like randomly. I was getting real tired out of nowhere.

When I got back, when I started practicing, got my EKG test done, docs and everybody told me I was cool. They said my heart is normal where it should be.

I feel perfectly fine. I was ready to go. I had about three-and-a-half weeks, close to a month to get ready for this. It was almost kind of better that Citi Open canceled in the end, because I would have played but I don't think I would have been in tip-top shape for it.

Yeah, I'm here and I'm in third round. I'm feeling good.

Q. It was also your first five-set win at the Open, is that right, also?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, man, I've lost some heartbreakers here at the Open. Yeah, man. I didn't even think about that. I lost some heartbreakers. It was nice to get over the line here in New York.

Q. Wondering, you talked about your mentality there. What do you think was the difference this time around? Were you able to kind of get into that mindset that you needed to be in to tough it out, especially after that third set like you talked about?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, I mean, it's kind of like what's the alternative? You know what I'm saying? It's COVID. You're going to go back home, you're going to be bored as hell. You can go crazy for an hour and a half, fourth and fifth set you can go dumb.

I told Wayne, my physio, Look, I can go crazy for two sets and hopefully that brings out a win. If not, I can leave with a good taste in my mouth.

Even here you're in a bubble, you go home, I'll go home to D.C., not much to do. So I'm already -- I want to stay here and do well and get my ranking back up high and hopefully higher than what it was.

Q. How did you find it with the kind of lesser crowds out there? Seemed like you were able to keep your energy up pretty well. Fist pump and everything was there. Did it bother you at all?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, I would be lying to you if I told you I like it. Obviously I'm a guy who kind of feeds off the crowd. I was struggling. Especially in the third, kind of felt like after a while I was out there just playing tennis, felt like practice. I was, Man, I'm just out here.

Then I was like, Tap in. This is the US Open. Relax. Tap in. Then I was like, Let me just lock in and get busy.

So it's not easy, for sure, because especially you're out there putting it all on the line and you can't get that energy from the crowd. It's tough to also sense big moments, because everything is the same throughout the whole match. You can hit like a between-the-legs winner or a horrendous shot to the fence, and it's the same reaction you're going to get.

That's some adjustments I've got to get used to.

Q. When you're wearing your mask we don't see the best smile in tennis.

FRANCES TIAFOE: I appreciate that, man.

Q. A couple of questions. When you were sort of at the toughest point of the COVID, if they told you, Hey, don't worry, you'll make the third round of the Open, what would your thoughts have been?

FRANCES TIAFOE: I would have been, like -- I was nervous, man. Man, I've got COVID. I was supposed to play World TeamTennis. I was like, Damn, this is not a good look. This is not what I need right now.

Yeah, I probably would have laughed. At that point, it was up in the air if the US Open was even going to happen. I was pissed off, I was real negative. I was, like, Man, screw this, man. Like, let me see what 2021 is talking about because this year has been trash.

But then luckily, I mean, great support system. Guys behind me. Guys telling me you're going to be all right. I felt good, as I was saying earlier, I felt good.

Yeah, I'm just happy to be here right now.

Q. A serious question. You have obviously talked about George Floyd and playing out in Colorado, so many more. You and your brother as African American men, do you ever fear for yourself or had incidents when you're just walking around out on the streets and all of that?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Look, it's been a thing, family members, everyone that's close to me, I feel like it's a thing. If you're in the wrong place, wrong time, yes, everyone is in fear. You try to do the right things.

I mean, obviously it's crazy what's going on in the world right now. It's sad. It's not right. Because we definitely matter. We definitely mean just as much as the person to the right or left of us.

Obviously, you know, that hasn't been showed for. I love everyone coming together, everyone trying to figure out ways to get these things done.

But, I mean, for me, it starts with young guys, starts with our communities, starts with representation, you know, really helping, you know, people of color. And especially being African American, it's not just about taking care of yourself and your family anymore. It's not about that. It's about taking care of your communities, taking care of -- just putting African Americans in a position to win.

I think more than that it would uplift everybody. Because, I mean, such a great culture, you know. It just needs to be showed for.

Q. Naomi really stepped up. What were your thoughts about her initiative and her move?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Oh, I mean, Naomi, that's my guy. She's special. She's special on and off court, what she stands for. I have been a fan ever since she popped off in the Open here a couple years ago, and even before that. Always nice and quiet. But to see actually her use her platforms and go crazy, it's special. You tip your hat off to that.

You had a whole movement, you had Bleacher Report, everything, going crazy that she didn't play Cincinnati. That's special. I bet a lot of people weren't for that, but she believed in something. She's coming out with a different mask every night. She's trending. She definitely figured out, she's definitely woke.

I'm proud of her and I keep hoping she's doing the same thing. I'm going to try to do my things on my front. Sloane is too. I know the Williams sisters are. All these guys. Yeah, I'm just happy to be a part of that list.

Q. Your next match is against a very good friend of yours. You practice together a lot. What are your thoughts about that match?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, yeah. Marton is a good guy. Hell of a player. I think he's one of the most underrated guys on the tour, to be honest. He can go crazy. He's got feel, he's got a good serve, he's got movement. He puts guys in uncomfortable situations.

He was ranked high, at one point around 30s. He's won a title. He's beaten a lot of good guys. It's not a surprise to me he's in the third round. I know it's going to be a blood bath. The guy just went crazy for five hours getting Grigor. That's tough. Grigor is always a tough out.

So I'm just happy to get a chance to play. It's a big match for both of us. It will definitely skyrocket both of us to back to where we were and higher.

But, yeah, I'm going to have to show up. You know, I can't be having too many dips. I think I've got to be able to play at a high level and sustain it.

Q. It seemed like during the match you had sort of a bit of a dialogue going on with your coaches, I guess because they are so close. What are you guys going back and forth about there? How do you use that in the atmosphere like this where there is no other fans?

FRANCES TIAFOE: I'm just talking bullshit. It's more me just talking bullshit. Sorry for my language. I'm just running my mouth. I'm just out here -- some of it's boredom, some of it's trying to get information. Because again, you're out there and there is no fans.

So you're sitting there, you're out there grinding for a couple of hours, you just want to maybe just crack a joke and break the ice a little bit. That's kind of what it's been.

But, yeah, I mean, and even I had a couple friends there, cracked a couple of jokes with them. I'm just trying to make it a fun atmosphere. Because I'm a guy who thrives off of good energy. If there's good vibes and good energy, I feel like I can play well. That's kind of what I've been doing.

Q. You mentioned at some point sort of towards the end of the match you were playing some great defense there. Is that something you've been working on or thinking about today, or is that something you guys have been focused on, you and Wayne?

FRANCES TIAFOE: No, I had to give it to him because he was clowning on my defense. He's, like, You don't play defense. I was like, Man, I'm one of the guys with the quickest wheels here. He's like, Yeah, but you always bail out on defense.

Then I was defending, defending, defending, I guess right, and got a ball down. Then I was like, How is that for defense, Wayne? Kind of like throwing some shade at him. That's what that was. That's what that was.

Q. Does Wayne ever give you a tough time about beating both Roger and Pete Sampras? Does he throw that in your face?

FRANCES TIAFOE: No, no. Obviously Pete's, what Pete's obviously done, he's super humble, man. He doesn't really like even talking about himself like that. I'm always like every time during practice, I'd be like, Oh, yeah, I'm out here playing like Wayne Ferreira. He just kind of like laughs. He's like, Man, you're an idiot.

No, he's super chill, super relaxed. His insight is scary. I mean, he's got one hell of a mind for the game. I think I'm a student of the game, I think I know a lot about the game. But he obviously played at a high level and was around for a long time.

Yeah, we're becoming great friends, and obviously a great player-coach relationship. I'm glad he's here, and, hopefully we can keep going.

Q. Serena, she's such an icon in tennis, in the community. She's out there battling. She's a mother into her 30s. Just talk about her impact in tennis and even more so in the community.

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, I mean, Serena is obviously an icon in tennis. Everybody knows the fuck Serena Williams is. Serena Williams, man, she's special, man. She's special.

And Venus, too. I mean, they go down together, man. The Williams sisters, so much weight, you know what I'm saying? You're in Black neighborhoods and Black culture, every time I say I'm playing tennis, they like, Oh, you do that Venus and Serena thing. That's just what they know. This is what it is.

Everything she does, she's been such an icon for so long, she's a living legend. I'm such a fan. I'm so happy we have gotten so close over the years and I can call her a friend, you know, because I ask her questions. Serena Williams and Venus Williams is why Frances Tiafoe is even a name.

I look up to them. Obviously she had a sister. I had a twin brother. It's my goal for both of us to be out here and just being able to inspire generations and generations under me to be a guy where, you know, you look at and you go, I want to be like that guy one day. And not even playing a game of tennis. To play any sport, you know, whatever your craft may be. You know, if you're a doctor, if you're a lawyer, everybody wants to inspire us to be like them.

And especially what they do in the communities, you know, they give back. They get it. They don't forget where they came from. You know, it was a dark place. It was a tough time. Obviously as a kid, you're enjoying that, but outside looking in, times are tough.

But, you know, they did unbelievable jobs that you can't know where you're going unless you know where you're from. Unbelievable what they did. I'm a fan. I had a similar come-up, and Serena Williams and Venus Williams are always going to be major GOATs to me, and I just hope one day I can be in the same sentence as them.

Q. What do you consider to be the main hurdles for you as you strive to be a guy who goes deep in the majors?

FRANCES TIAFOE: Just tapping in. Tapping in. First getting my ranking to be seeded in a majors. Obviously the last couple of majors I played quality guys early and lost some tight ones.

You know, obviously when I made quarters at Australia beating Kevin Anderson, it's not easy to beat those guys so early in majors because they are so ready to go, especially that early in the year.

So if I can, like moments like this, go for a run, you know, and then see myself as a top guy, and then I think from there I can play at a high level, but just bringing it, just bringing it and really, really digging.

It's not about playing great tennis. It's about competing your ass off, and I think that goes a long way. You can win a lot of matches just putting it all on the line. That's what I did today, and I'm trying to strive to do more of that instead of just trying to always, you know, be on ESPN top 10. Going to meat and potatoes and get busy.

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