The Nomadic Life With... Frances Tiafoe
Frances Tiafoe is one of the most popular players on Tour. You will rarely find the American without a smile on his face, and he is always having fun with his colleagues.
What are two essential non-tennis items you always pack for trips?
My HDMI cord, I’ve got to be able to play my tunes, watch my Netflix on TV and then usually a speaker, play some tunes and kind of relax.
I'm listening to a lot of Afrobeats music, a lot of Afro tunes, obviously some rap… and I like documentaries. I watched Tony Parker, the new documentary, and then some movies. I watched the movie Just Mercy with Michael B. Jordan, so [I do] things like that.
What item did you forget to bring one time that caused you distress?
Oh man, I forget everything. I've left racquets at home, somehow left shoes. I've packed my whole bag without my clothes, I'm the worst. Passport, too. When you go on tour, say I'm in Washington, D.C. and I'm flying out to Florida, obviously I don't need a passport. Then I'm trying to leave from Florida and my passport's in D.C., so I've got to take a flight a day later. Someone has to fly down and get me the passport, because if they ship it, it'll take too long. I'm the worst at that, man.
Do you enjoy travelling the world or consider it just something that needs to be done to be a pro tennis player? If you do enjoy it, what do you enjoy about travelling?
It's a combination. I enjoy it, but you do get used to because this is what we do. There's no gimmick. I'm kind of used to it. It's tougher now in the bubbles, fully isolated all the time. But pre-Covid, I couldn't really complain.
I miss being home, but I try to bring the home atmosphere to the road. At the Slams and stuff, I try to go to nice dinners, roam around the city, go to my favourite spots and hang out and do my thing.
Can you talk about a time you decided to play a specific tournament in part because you wanted to travel to that city?
In Argentina [earlier this year]. Obviously, it's a bubble right now. [But during normal times], some weeks I try to see the city. The first time I went to the Estoril ATP 250, I wanted to see what people were talking about. I like going to certain places. Before I retire, I want to say I did all the swings and see what it's like.
What is your favourite tournament city to visit and why?
Melbourne. I love everything Melbourne represents. The people are great, the food's great. Everything, the vibes, they love their tennis over there. There's a tonne of fun things to do. I liked the vibes in Argentina. I love playing New York. I love playing obviously home in D.C., the ATP 500. Crowds I like a lot.
What is your craziest travel story?
When I was younger, I went to Mexico and my bags didn't come through. I was younger, I was playing in the quarter-finals of the Under 16s. I had everything in my tennis bag — passport, shoes, racquets, the whole nine — and we're getting up to leave and my guy, Jordi Arconada, he's like, "We've been waiting for you.” I said, "I don't know where my bag is.” We've got a whole night, so I was like for sure it'll come up in the morning and never did.
I walked on to play my quarter-final using some Canadian guy's racquets. I played the first four games in running shoes, because the shop didn't open until half an hour into the match. That was probably the craziest thing that happened to me.
Are there any routines or activities you do to create a sense of ‘home on the road’ to feel more comfortable?
It's vibes, man. I try to do everything i can. I love music, watching Netflix, do a tonne of Facetime. Just chilling. I'm not big on bringing too much stuff, because I end up losing it.
How do you try to overcome jetlag and acclimate to the local time zone?
I'm horrible at jetlag. It took me about a week, eight days to get right after Melbourne. I just stop caring about it. It's 10 a.m. and it's nighttime over there [in Melbourne] and I'm like, "I'm just going to go to sleep." I can't hustle all day. Especially now with Covid, you can't hang out outside all day. The first day I got back I slept like 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Didn't sleep a lick all night, not one hour through the night. It was bad.
Got any tips to get comfortable on a flight? And how do you pass the time?
Recline the chair back, cock the head to the left and that's it. I'm done. The longer flights I try to go business so I can lay all the way back, but the shorter flights I usually get an exit row, reclining and cocking to the left. Get a good play list playing.
Are you someone who gets to the airport with lots of time to spare or do you cut it fine?
I cut it close because I can't sit in airports. My guy, Jordi, freaks out about everything. We had a flight about 9:20 p.m. He wanted to be there at about 9:20 a.m. I was like, “Cool, okay.” Usually, I like to keep it close. I get to the airport and just get in there. You start living on the edge, man. It's kind of unnecessary. But I actually liked it. We went to the airport at a decent time, had a good dinner.