As 24-year-old Washington D.C. native Francis Tiafoe makes a run at being the first American male to win a Grand Slam singles tennis title in nearly 20 years at the U.S. Open, Bradley Beal is enjoying the ride.
Brad was in attendance in Queens, New York on Monday as Tiafoe defeated 21-time Grand Slam singles champion Rafael Nadal, one of the greatest tennis players of all-time, in a five-set thriller to advance to the quarterfinals of the 142nd U.S. Open.
Beal was back on Wednesday when Tiafoe ousted Andrey Rublev in straight sets to advance to the tournament semi-finals. His run, especially the epic win over Nadal, has made Tiafoe a household name across the United States, But in the Wizards locker room, Francis has been well known for a long time, thanks to Wizards Team President Tommy Sheppard, who has invited the tennis prodigy as his guest at myriad games over the last decade.
Those frequent visits have allowed Brad and Tiafoe to build a friendship as both have grown up and become stars in their respective sports.
“He’s born and raised here. He has roots here. To be able to meet him almost 10 years ago and see where he’s progressed to as a pro, playing in the U.S. Open, having a chance to go to the finals…. We just support him from being from D.C., just being who he is.”
Tiafoe’s run at the Open was enough to get Brad to make his first ever trip to a tennis match earlier this week, as he traveled from the DMV to New York to catch the match against Nadal.
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) September 5, 2022
“It was one of the most unbelievable things to be a part of,” Brad said. “It really felt like an NBA Finals game. Everybody says [Francis} has that kind of appeal when he plays, and that’s what I love about him. He plays with passion. He plays with joy, you know? You can see that. He doesn’t shy away from who he is. He has the little antics he does during his matches. It just brings the fun out and keeps everybody engaged.”
Among those antics was a flex after a winner in the match against Nadal, directed toward Beal, which Brad happily returned. Their back and forth continued during the match against Rublev as Tiafoe secured a trip to the semi-finals.
And regardless of how Friday’s semi-final and potentially Sunday’s U.S. Open Final go, Tiafoe has already done something that hasn’t been done in 50 years, while putting himself on the radar of a sport seeking new stars as its old guard — players like Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams — winds down their careers. At just 24 years old, Tiafoe is in a very good spot with a great chance to create a lasting legacy.
“The craziest stat is him being the first Black man to reach the semifinals since Arthur Ashe. Like, that is crazy to think about,” Brad said. “To look outside the box and think about that — he’s creating history before our eyes.”