NEW YORK (AP) — Michelle Obama waved her arms in the air and yelled, “Let’s go, Foe!”
Down on the U.S. Open court below, Frances Tiafoe was pleased to see he had a new fan.
Obama had a seat in the front row behind the baseline to watch the American play Friday night in the semifinals in Arthur Ashe Stadium, giving him a thumbs-up and a shout-out when she was shown on the video screens.
“She sees me and she’s actually excited to see me,” Tiafoe said.
And to think, he feared he’d made a bad first impression on the former first lady.
Not long after he spotted Obama, even before she was shown to fans, Tiafoe remembered hitting a particularly bad shot.
“I think I shanked a return,” he said, recalling that he thought “she thinks I’m a bum. Can’t make a return.”
Actually, Tiafoe gave her a good show, taking No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz to a fifth set before falling 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
That ended the deepest run by an American man in the U.S. Open since Andy Roddick reached the 1996 final, and left Tiafoe one win shy of becoming the first Black man from the U.S. in a major final since MaliVai Washington was the runner-up at Wimbledon in 1996.
After the match, he got to speak with Obama and they walked out through the tunnel from the court together. He said goodbye before meeting up with his supporters that again included Washington Wizards star John Wall.
“Obviously there was a lot of who’s whos in there tonight,” Tiafoe said. “Obviously we all know what she means. Crazy getting to meet her after.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable night.”