Raised in Hyattsville, Frances Tiafoe has always been associated with the American capital. Frances made his ATP Tour debut at Washington in 2014 as a 16-year-old, losing to Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets after a solid effort. Tiafoe only had two wins in his first five trips to Washington, and he will try to change that this week as a Top 30 player and 10th seed. Frances suffered an early loss to World No. 130 Jenson Brooksby in straight sets last year, and is hoping for a better run in the coming days. Last year, Rafael Nadal made the surprising decision to accept a wild card in Washington and make his debut in the US capital. Tiafoe watched Juan Martin del Potro and James Blake compete at the City Open when he was younger. Twelve months ago, he had the opportunity to share the draw at one of his favorite events with a 22-major winner. He was thrilled to have a player of Nadal’s caliber in the tournament, calling it an incredible experience. Rafa decided to take the Washington wild card after skipping Wimbledon and the Olympics. The Spaniard suffered a foot injury in the Roland Garros semi-final against Novak Djokovic. He did his best to stay in touch despite an obvious struggle, falling in four sets after more than four hours. Nadal was unable to train for three weeks, and there was no chance for him to play in London or Tokyo. Rafa returned to the training track at his home in Mallorca in July and chose to go to Washington to see how his body was at that time. As it turned out, Nadal couldn’t deal with the pain in his foot, playing two tough matches and deciding to end the season and focus on 2022.
Nadal made history
In his autobiography, ‘Rafael Nadal: My Story’, the former World Number 1 has described how he managed his studies along with playing tennis. He said, “My mother put her energy and encouragement into the areas where I was less strong, such as my school studies. It was on this account that my parents, having shielded me from Barcelona, decided when I turned fifteen that I should do as my father, and Toni, had done and go to a boarding school in Palma.” Nadal complained to his mother about missing the junior tournaments at Wimbledon and Roland Garros. He said, “But these tournaments are so important! I complained to my mother. To which she replied, Yes, I’m certain of it but I assure you that you’ll have another chance to play in those competitions; but if you abandon your studies, you most definitely will not have another chance to pass your exams.”