Wilmington tennis legend delighted over Frances Tiafoe’s success at US Open

Wilmington tennis legend delighted over Frances Tiafoe’s success at US Open
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It’s been a remarkable couple of weeks at the US Open. Serena Williams thrilled the crowds last week. This week, American Frances Tiafoe advanced to the semi-finals, the first African-American man to do so since Arthur Ashe back in 1972.

Wilmington tennis legend Lenny Simpson is known by many for his One Love Tennis program, where he teaches tennis to at-risk youth. But Simpson also competed in the US Open back in the 1960s, which was no small feat for an African-American man in that era. He said he’s ecstatic about Tiafoe’s success.

“Hey, he has made it into the big time. This is the first year of super success. That’s when you get past the quarterfinals and in a major event. You have made it. This is the hardest worker on the tour that I’ve ever seen,” Simpson said of Tiafoe’s remarkable achievements in New York.

24-year-old Tiafoe overcame some pretty incredible odds himself to make it to the semifinals of the U-S Open. The son of immigrants from Sierra Leonne, Tiafoe’s father worked as a janitor at a tennis center in Washington, DC, where Tiafoe was able to play for free and learned the game.

A lot of people learned Tiafoe’s name for the first time earlier this week when he knocked off superstar Rafael Nadal. Simpson says it’s a wonderful thing to watch, but reminded us never to forget the people that paved the way, like Simpson’s own coaches, Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. He says they made this possible for him, Serena Williams, and Frances Tiafoe.

“To see [Tiafoe] make this charge. And make it to the big time. Is it does wonders for me. I’ve been in this game. fighting the system them for over 50 years and see him get to this height. I’m I’m thrilled to death for him,” Simpson said.

Tiafoe will play 19-year-old Carlos Alcarez at 7 o’clock Friday evening. It will be the first grand slam semifinal for both of them.