© Hiroshi Sato

Frances Tiafoe is pursuing his first ATP 500 title in Tokyo.

Tiafoe: 'I’m Super Curious To See Where I Can Take This Tennis Thing'

American discusses impact of Federer, Serena on his career

Frances Tiafoe returns to Tokyo on the back of the biggest month of his tennis career, as he followed a run to the US Open semi-finals with two memorable Laver Cup wins — a doubles victory against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Swiss’ final professional match, and an event-clinching triumph for Team World against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 24-year-old’s star is growing brighter as he enters the Land of The Rising Sun, with the American set to compete at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships for the third time, including a qualifying appearance in 2017. Tiafoe also earned his first Olympic wins, one each in singles and doubles, at Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park last July.

“It’s been a crazy month. I’ve been getting a lot of attention as of late,” Tiafoe said, discussing his recent success at a pre-tournament press conference.

“I’m just trying to keep the main thing the main thing. I’m super curious to see where I can take this tennis thing. I’ve got a lot to give to the game. I think me doing well is great for the sport.”

Tiafoe has enjoyed the perks of his heightened fame, including two VIP trips to see his hometown Washington Wizards play the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors just outside Tokyo.

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But the American is not letting the extra attention get to his head.

“As far as the noise, obviously it comes with it,” he said. “People are cheering you one day and the next you can be forgotten. That’s how individual sports go.”

Tiafoe was also asked about recently retired tennis legends Federer and Serena Williams, and he thanked both icons for inspiring him to be his best on and off the court.

“It was an unbelievable experience to play Roger in his last match,” he said of their Laver Cup meeting. “A bittersweet feeling. Win, loss — it’s irrelevant. Just to see him take it all in, his whole career, [there were] so many different emotions.”

Tiafoe also credited Williams for her impact on his career from a young age.

“Serena means the world to me and many other people,” he said. “A true icon, her and her sister. She’s definitely the reason why I believed that I can do this in the tennis world.

“Being an African-American, I want to have that respect that Serena had. When I finish my career, if a lot of people who look like me are playing the game of tennis, then I’ll feel like I definitely won. That’s definitely my main goal.”

Tiafoe opens his Tokyo campaign on Monday evening at the Ariake Colosseum, with the fourth seed set to take on Japanese wild card Yasutaka Uchiyama on the show court.

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