)He’s one of his country’s brightest prospects on the tennis tour, but US star Frances Tiafoe says a lack of diversity in the sport makes him feels like an “outsider.”
The current world No. 81 reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2019 but says his success has always felt “different.”
As one of very few black men in the top 100, the 22-year-old Tiafoe also believes he’s had to work twice as hard to reach the elite level.
“I definitely feel that not everybody wants to see that success in me,” Tiafoe told CNN Sport’s Christina Macfarlane, stating he still felt the love from the majority of fans.
“I feel like I’m taking something from someone that may have liked to do that.
“I definitely felt that because ultimately, they don’t want us in power. I truly think that’s a thing.”
The American has urged other professional players to get involved to address the issue of diversity and promised to continue fighting for equality while he still has the platform to do so.
He credits the impact the Williams sisters have had on the game but knows more needs to be done to address the balance.
Aware that not everybody has the resources to break into the tennis elite — a recent study found tennis players spend between $175,000 to $2 million per year on expenses — he says having role models to look up to can encourage other black children that tennis is a sport they can participate in.
“Are we going to help everyone? Of course not, but I’m definitely going to help as many people as I can. That’s my duty,” he said.
Such a lack of diverse representation was all too clear when, along with his girlfriend and tennis player Ayan Broomfield, he created a protest video to raise awareness of racial injustices after the death of George Floyd sparked protests across the world.
In collaboration with a host of black players and coaches — such as Serena Williams and Coco Gauff — he posted the “Racquets down, hands up” video to his social media channels.
“I think if more people who have weight, who have a big platform, speak out then I think change can happen and you can be optimistic,” he said.
“Obviously you see everything going on in America right now, I think it’s a good idea to come together right now and try to speak out.”
The general manager of player development for the US Tennis Association Martin Blackman told the Undefeated website that he’d like to see more black men try and enter the sport professionally through the college tennis route.
According to Blackman, the issue of grassroots coaching has a role to play in getting more black children to think about taking up tennis.
“If we had more African American coaches in the community where the kids live, that is going to make an enormous difference,” Blackman told Undefeated.