The 24-year-old simply stood, enjoying the atmosphere created by the bustling Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It felt like a defining moment in the American career. The culmination of hard work and raw talent that has long been heralded as the potential future of men’s tennis in the country.
Expectations for Tiafoe have long been high and world number 26 now looks more than comfortable on the biggest stage in the sport.
If Tiafoe reaches the semi-finals by defeating Andrei Rublev on Wednesday, he will score the best Grand Slam result of his career and the feat will be even more impressive given his humble beginnings.
Tiafoe’s path to tennis was by no means traditional.
Their father, Constant Tiafoe, started working at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Washington, D.C. in 1999 and eventually moved into a vacant storage room while working around the clock.
His two sons would occasionally stay with him, sleeping on a massage table, while their mother worked night shifts as a nurse.
The unusual gateway to sports gave Tiafoe a chance to start developing his skills, and after he began training at the facility, he did not look back.
Driven by his parents’ work ethic, he won the prestigious Orange Bowl – one of the most prized junior tennis tournaments – at the age of 15, becoming the youngest boys’ singles champion in the tournament’s history.
Join the roster of former champions that includes Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Evan Lendl, Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
It was a sign of things to come.
Mature in a round
Tiafoe turned pro in 2015 and is beginning to recognize the rigors of touring seniors.
He broke into the world’s top 100 and began to assert himself in the Grand Slams – reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in 2019 before losing to Nadal.
Three years later, he finds himself in another quarter-final, only this time feeling more ready to seize the opportunity.
“Honestly, when I first came to the arena, I wasn’t mentally prepared and mature enough,” he said in court after his victory over Nadal. “I have managed to develop and have a great team around me.
“I’m glad I won in front of my mum, dad, girlfriend and my team and to let them see what I did.”
While he establishes himself as a contender on the court, Tiafoe also seeks social justice outside of it.
In 2022, he told CNN Sport that the lack of diversity in the sport made him feel “weird,” and vowed to continue the fight for equality while still having the platform to do so.
He created a protest video in 2022 to raise awareness of racial injustice after the death of George Floyd, which sparked protests around the world.
In collaboration with a group of black players and coaches – such as Serena Williams and Coco Gauff – he posted a video of “Rackets Down, Hands Up” on his social media channels.
On the court, his next match against Rublev will surely be the biggest of his career to date.
Domestic fans are hoping their champion can reach new heights in his bid to win his first Grand Slam title.
His performances caught the attention of some of the biggest names in the sport, congratulating NBA star LeBron James Tiafoe on reaching the quarter-finals.
However, make no mistake, this is not an overnight success story. It is the product of thousands of hours of work and a mindset that needs no answer.
However, while the weight of the nation rests on his shoulders, Tiafoe has always focused on making his parents proud.
“With their trying so hard, I felt like I didn’t want to let them down. I felt like I didn’t want to consider opportunities,” he told CNN Sport in 2015.
CNN’s Will Edmonds and Christina MacFarlane contributed to this report.