NUGGETS

American tennis star wears key Nuggets player’s jersey at US Open

Aug 31, 2023, 1:57 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2023, 2:28 pm

The Denver Nuggets have joined the cultural lexicon this summer in a way they never had before—and that’s part of winning an NBA title.

During a Thursday practice between his second and third-round matches at this year’s US Open, the world’s currently ranked tenth-best tennis player, Frances Tiafoe, was rocking a Denver Nuggets jersey. No, it wasn’t two-time MVP Nikola Jokic or the iconic Jamal Murray or even standout dunker Aaron Gordon or the sweet-shooting Michael Porter Jr. No, it was the fifth person in the Nuggets lineup, stud two-way veteran Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s jersey Tiafoe was wearing while hitting balls.

Tiafoe, 25, has a bunch of a great years in the sport including a 2019 quarterfinal appearance in the Australian Open. But he really caught the sports world by storm last summer with a standout performance at the US Open in Flushing Meadows in New York City.

Tiafoe beat 14th seed Diego Schwartzman in the third round then got the biggest win by an American tennis player in years with his fourth round match. Tiafoe knocked off No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal to reach the quarterfinals, the first American to beat the great Nadal in a Grand Slam tournament since 2005. Then Tiafoe took down No. 9 seed Andrey Rublev, becoming the first American man to reach the semifinals in Flushing Meadows since 2006. His run came to an end against current world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz who beat him in a hard-fought five set classic that lasted over four hours.

Along for that ride last year was Caldwell-Pope’ who watched the match against Rublev with now Suns All-Star and former Washington teammate Bradley Beal. Tiafoe is from the DMV area and also has a connection with fellow local athlete Kevin Durant, who is also now on the Suns.

Tiafoe congratulated KCP on social media after the Nuggets title. And he also referenced how honored he was that KCP wanted to see him play, saying in the past, “I was a kid who had an opportunity and dreamed massively big. Shouldn’t be doing any of these things, honestly. [I was] sneaking into this event, telling my parents I was going to be a pro at a super young age, against all odds, wearing hand-me-down clothes, holes in my shoes, cargo shorts. Guys like KD and [Kentavious] Caldwell-Pope and Gaff [Daniel Gafford] want to come see me play.”

KCP showed up again at the five-setter with Alcaraz. This year Tiafoe has to get past the No. 22 seeded Adrian Mannarino on Friday and would have to face both Alcaraz in the Final and Novak Djokovic (assuming they both win) before that if he’s to win his first Grand Slam title. Ahead of the tournament Tiafoe and Alcaraz did a charity tennis event Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, who has been all over NYC for the tennis.

But if you needed another reason to root for the perpetual underdog Tiafoe, he’s backing the Denver Nuggets and KCP, and that’s pretty cool.

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