Maryland tennis students cheer Hyattsville native Tiafoe to victory

Tennis students at the Maryland facility where Frances Tiafoe learned the game sat on folding chairs before a big-screen TV on Court 2 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, watching him beat Andrey Rublev in straight sets at their quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open.

At the College Park watch party Wednesday, a few dozen boys and girls and their parents cheered the 24-year-old pro’s every point and grimaced at his few missed points. When Tiafoe dispatched Rublev in the third set, some of the kids jumped out of their seats and pumped their fists in the air.

“I’m really inspired by him because I train at the same place, and the fact that he could make it to the semis at the U.S. Open makes me feel like I can,” said Reiley Rhodes, 12, of Annapolis, who is ranked No. 1 for her age group in Maryland and 13th in the nation.

Rhodes and the other tennis students watched Tiafoe win the first set, then left the watch party for the indoor courts, where under the direction of coaches, they participated in rounds of rallying. The kids then watched Tiafoe cement his victory in the third set.

“I really admire Tiafoe for all he’s been doing … it’s really cool seeing him out there beating top 10 top 20 players … it’s really inspiring,” said Kai Wells, 14, of Clarksburg, ranked seventh for her age group in Maryland.

Tiafoe’s father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, worked as a maintenance man at the tennis facility while Tiafoe learned the game.

“This is our dream come true; this is our dream because him and I we always talked about this. This is the moment. He just got a ticket, now run with it … I’m pretty sure, right now, his confidence is so high … so we’re going to see what happens on Friday. I can’t wait,” said Komi Oliver Akli, senior director of player development at the center.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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