Frances Tiafoe’s parents and his family's incredible journey from Sierra Leone

Joshua Rogers September 9, 2022
Frances Tiafoe’s parents and his family's incredible journey from Sierra Leone
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

After the American beat Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinal at the US Open, we take a look at Frances Tiafoe’s parents and their incredible journey from Sierra Leone to Maryland.

Frances Tiafoe is into the semifinals at this year’s US Open, where he faces Carlos Alcaraz.

The 22nd seed upset No.14 seed Diego Schwartzman earlier in the tournament. He came through in straight sets to set up an encounter with Spanish legend, Rafael Nadal.

Tiafoe overcame the odds to beat the 22-time Grand Slam champion in four sets, confirming the biggest win of his career. He followed that up with a win over Rublev in the quarters.

The 24-year-old, ranked No.26 in the world, is making waves in the world of tennis, and his story is even more incredible given the journey his family has been on.

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What we know about Frances Tiafoe’s parents

Frances Tiafoe’s parents are mother Alphina Kamara and father Frances Tiafoe Sr. They raised the tennis star in Maryland after emigrating from Sierra Leone. 

To escape the civil war in their home country, his father escaped Sierra Leone to go to England in 1988 before emigrating to the US in 1993. Tiafoe’s mother joined him three years later.

She told The Washington Post before she left Sierra Leone: “I was going to a funeral every week.”

Speaking to the BBC about his parent’s journey from Sierra Leone, Frances said: “It humbled me and made me serious. It came into my head pretty quick to use tennis as a way to help not only myself but our family because they have sacrificed so much.”

Living at the Junior Tennis Champions Center with his father

In 1999, France’s father began working as a day laborer on a construction crew. When the facility was completed, he was hired as the on-site custodian.

After impressing the center’s founder with his work ethic, Frances Sr became the maintenance man at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland. He was given a spare 10-by-14ft room at the complex to sleep in between his long working hours.

Frances and his twin brother Franklin stayed with Frances Sr for many nights a week. It gave them incredible access to the center’s tennis facilities. According to a 2012 New York Times article, Frances Jr was enrolled there free at the age of five – a pivotal moment in his tennis career.

Eventually, Frances’ parents agreed it was better for the twins to spend time at the center. They had the opportunity to convert a small office with one window into a room that became their house for five days a week for the next 11 years.

They would, however, stay with their mom Alphina in a one-bedroom apartment when she wasn’t working night shifts as a nurse.

You can read more about Franklin Tiafoe here.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.