Bell, former Wizards guard Kentavius Caldwell Bob, and Wizards player development staff Alex McClain and Rob Dozer were on hand. Tiafoe surprised Rafael Nadal in the fourth round And his victory over Andrei Rublev in the quarter-finals. The Beals sat in the Tiafoe player’s chest due to Nadal’s disorder, after which Tiafoe gave the goalkeeper a shout out as his favorite NBA player.
“It was one of the most incredible things to be a part of,” Bell said.
As for Tiafoe’s win in the quarter-finals, the group sat on the field – no polite applause here.
McClain and Dozier stood after the big points from Game One, bowed, applauded and talked in Tiafoe just as they do on the sidelines of the NBA. Beal and Tiafoe flex their muscles over each other after the winners, from one athlete to the next. It took the fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium – raucous for a tennis game but buttoned up compared to the NBA fans – a few games to catch up.
“It really felt like the NBA Finals game. Everyone says he has that kind of charisma when he plays, which is what I love about him. He plays with passion. He plays with joy, you know?” Bill said. “You can watch this. He is not shy about who he is. He has a few antics that he does during his matches. He just brings fun and keeps everyone connected.”
Tiafoe had LeBron James and James’ agent Rich Paul Access After beating Nadal, however, the 24-year-old’s loyalties lie in the DC area (though he’s referred to James as his “big bro” on Twitter. Who can blame him?).
Tiafoe Beal has known for years, ever since Wizards president and general manager Tommy Sheppard brought him into the team’s locker room after a game nearly a decade ago. Bill wore the No. 3 jersey as he walked around the courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the days leading up to the start of the US Open.
Maryland football coach Michael Locksley also rides the Tiafoe Train. The connection there is normal – Tiafoe learned to play tennis at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park and has shown love for Maryland ever since. He began practicing in the months following Locksley’s appointment.
“I kind of see myself as a teacher. He spends a lot of time here at our facility when he’s in town,” Locksley said this week. “I know our training room, we laugh because yesterday during training I saw all of our trainers on their phones. I said, “We have men training.” And they take good care of Francis when he’s here in town. He was a huge supporter of football in Maryland. He is a friend of some former players and current players. He’s one of those guys like me who loves everything.”
Bell appreciates the energy that Tiafoe brings to Washington during the US Open. He also knows that his run-off will have ripple effects far beyond the region.
“He was born and raised here. He has roots here. To be able to meet him from almost 10 years ago and see where he has progressed as a professional, he played in the US Open, he has a chance to go to the finals – the craziest stat is being the first black man to make it to the round Semi-finalists since Arthur Ashe [in 1972]Bill said. “Like, it’s crazy to think of him. We just support him from being from DC, just being him. But to look outside the box and think about that – he’s making history before our eyes.”
Emily Giampalvo in College Park, Maryland contributed to this report.