“In the heat of the moment, I don’t really care,” Tiafoe said in a phone interview Friday. “But it’s different when you look in the crowd and you see everyone. Like, once you’re on the court, you’re ready to play, but it’s good to have their support when you know how bad they want it.
“They are going to show a lot of love for me, and I’m really excited for it.”
Growing up in the D.C. area, Tiafoe remembers being a young kid and watching Bobby Reynolds and Serena and Venus Williams play for the team. He says he always wanted to play for the Kastles, too.
This year, he’ll get his shot. He hopes this year will be “the first of many,” as he plans to play for an entire week.
“I’m really, really excited,” Tiafoe said. “I’ve always wanted to do it. I was going to do it last year, but didn’t quite work out. This year, I am happy to do it and happy to come out and have some fun on the court.”
Tiafoe turned pro in 2015 as a 17-year-old. He earned his first win in a Grand Slam match in January at the Australian Open against Mikhail Kukushkin. He won this month in the main draw of Wimbledon for the first time, against 38th-ranked Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
Tiafoe lost in the second round at Wimbledon to 12th-ranked Alexander Zverev, a 20-year-old who also ousted Tiafoe in the second round of the Australian Open.
“I was happy I got a win” at Wimbledon, Tiafoe said. “It was a good milestone.”
The Kastles, whose streak of five consecutive World Team Tennis titles was snapped last season, will play seven home matches at Smith Center, including on four consecutive days beginning Tuesday against the New York Empire.
Joining Tiafoe on the Kastles this year are Wimbledon finalist Venus Williams and Wimbledon semifinalist Sam Querrey. Williams, who lost to 23-year-old Garbine Muguruza in the final, is the only player on the WTA Tour who has reached two Grand Slam finals this season. Querrey, who beat world No. 1 Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, lost in the semifinals to Marin Cilic.
“It’s pretty incredible to have two players coming off the kind of Wimbledon Venus and Sam did,” Kastles owner Mark Ein said. “And now coming to play in Washington and also the introduction to the next generation of superstars, Frances as well. That’s a pretty incredible combination.”
The Kastles roster also includes Martina Hingis, Bob and Mike Bryan, Nick Kyrgios, Bruno Soares, Treat Huey, Madison Brengle and Anastasia Rodionova. Soares also is in his first season with the Kastles.
“We’ve never had this quality and depth every single night,” Ein said. “This is, in terms of quality and depth, this is unparalleled in our history. It’s a great mix of players who have played for us for many years and the introduction of a couple new ones.”
Tiafoe, the son of refugees who fled war-torn Sierra Leone, is the top-ranked teenager at No. 62 overall. He will play four straight days for the Kastles, with a Tiafoe bobblehead giveaway scheduled for Friday’s match against the Philadelphia Freedoms.
“That’s going to be hilarious,” Tiafoe said with a laugh. “It’s going to be cool seeing fans getting those of me. It’s cool that I’ll be at home and people are liking the things that I’m doing. I really appreciate it and I’m excited.”
Tiafoe said it’s exciting to see familiar faces with the Kastles, especially Querrey, who was welcoming to him while he was coming up on the tour.
“It’s a good energy, everyone is having fun, but still competing hard,” Tiafoe said of the Kastles’ team atmosphere. “I really like it and you see people outside the normal field and they get playing time and people are much more relaxed. It’s fun.”
Despite the close proximity of his family home, Tiafoe said he’ll stay in a hotel while he’s in town because of his busy schedule. Still, he’s planning to visit with his family and friends.
“Everyone and their mother is asking me for tickets, pretty much,” Tiafoe said with a chuckle. “It’s going to be a good time. I’m really excited for it. It’s going to be really great to play in D.C. for me. I’ll have those extra emotions.”