How Tiafoe vs. Shelton at the 2023 US Open is a Game-Changer for Tennis

How Tiafoe vs. Shelton at the 2023 Us Open Is a Game-Changer for Tennis


The 6th Annual Awards

Nominee ✨
  • Excellence in Black Storytelling


The 2023 US Open match between Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe was historic, marking the first time two Black American men faced off in a US Open quarterfinal. This story, utilizing that match as a focal point to chronicle the history of Black tennis in America from the early 1900s into the present day, provided important context on the progress of Black Americans in the professional sport and the pioneering champions who have helped—and continue to help—drive that progress.


How does this represent “Excellence in Engagement”?

“How Tiafoe vs. Shelton at the 2023 US Open is a game-changer for tennis” is a piece that reminded readers to take a look at the history of the sport in conjunction with a focus on the future. Representation is important—and that applies off the court, behind the cameras, and outside of the C-suite. But this story acknowledged the historic barriers in tennis for people of color and other underrepresented groups, which, often, aren’t discussed enough at the highest level of international sport.

Though there is so much emphasis on “firsts” and on making history, it’s also important to acknowledge the people who have quietly taken steps to make sports more inclusive, or did so before push alerts. In-depth and well-researched stories such as this encourage others to write about people and organizations who have gone under-appreciated in the past, and helps to connect the dots as to how those people nonetheless impacted the present.

A piece like this equally serves both avid and casual tennis fans, as well as the general reader, and teaches them something whether they are on-site at the US Open enjoying the tennis in-stadium, or watching from home.


The goal of this story was to provide more than the standard pre-match coverage or player feature, and educate fans who had little familiarity with the history of African Americans in tennis other than Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson and the Williams sisters, while shining a spotlight on the players and advocates who have worked tirelessly to make tennis accessible, equitable and inclusive.

The USTA strives to “make tennis look like America” and increase access at all levels of the game, from physical education curricula to providing player development grants to young players who aspire to play at the highest level. Additionally, people are more likely to pursue professions and passions that they can see themselves in, and spotlighting the success of Black players is a great way to encourage people to pick up a racquet—watching the Williams sisters inspired 2023 US Open champion Coco Gauff.

Strategy & Execution

While staff often writes match previews ahead of high-profile, late-stage matches, and pens features about important milestones, the strategy surrounding this piece was more than a background on the players and their respective US Open runs: It was intended to be an in-depth feature chronicling the history of Black tennis in the United States, and how past events led to two now-beloved Black Americans facing off on the sport’s biggest stage.

The story started out in the current moment, drawing people in with the simple fact that Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe would face each other in the US Open quarterfinals, then walk readers through how the past impacted the present day—a primer on crucial moments in Black tennis history, from the founding of the American Tennis Association to the current generation of stars.

The execution of this story was exemplary, thoroughly explaining important milestones and providing background while letting quotes from interviews and press conferences speak for themselves. Readers didn’t need to know Shelton or Tiafoe’s backstories, or the history of the ATA, to understand or appreciate the piece. After finishing it, they would’ve come away knowing more about those who fought for equity and inclusion in tennis.


  • United States Tennis Association (USTA)


Adesina O. Koiki
Freelance Writer

Mark Preston
Senior Director, Corporate Communications

Victoria Chiesa
Managing Editor, Corporate Communications

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