Tiafoe seals first Laver Cup title for Team World

Published September 26, 2022
LONDON: Members of Team World run to celebrate with Frances Tiafoe after he won his match against Team Europe’s Stefanos Tsitsipas to seal the Laver Cup for his side at the O2 Arena on Sunday.—Reuters
LONDON: Members of Team World run to celebrate with Frances Tiafoe after he won his match against Team Europe’s Stefanos Tsitsipas to seal the Laver Cup for his side at the O2 Arena on Sunday.—Reuters

LONDON: Frances Tiafoe sealed Team World’s first victory over Team Europe in the Laver Cup as he saved four match points in a dramatic victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas that denied Roger Federer a farewell trophy on Sunday.

The American, who beat Federer in the Swiss great’s last competitive match on Friday, proved a fly in Europe’s ointment once again with a scintillating victory.

He was outplayed in the first set but roared back to win 1-6, 7-6 (13-11), 10-8 to give Team World an unassailable 13-8 lead with a match to spare.

While Federer had hoped to mark the end of his career by lifting the trophy in a tournament he helped create, the Swiss legend was left to congratulate Tiafoe and the rest of the Team World squad.

Team World, who had lost the four previous editions of the team event, began the day trailing 8-4 but Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime stunned Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) having earlier partnered Jack Sock to a 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory against Andy Murray and Matteo Berrettini.

Tsitsipas had the chance to take the match to a deciding singles, but Tiafoe was inspired in front of a raucous O2 Arena crowd who loved his showman antics.

After winning the match point he collapsed to the court and was buried under a pile of his team-mates and captain John McEnroe who then treated the crowd to some dance moves.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Tiafoe, who reached the U.S. Open semi-final said on court. “John McEnroe dropped a lot of F bombs saying we can’t lose again. Felix beat Novak today and we all did it together, it wasn’t just me.”

McEnroe was clearly overjoyed to finally end a long wait to taste victory and get one over old rival Bjorn Borg who was captain of a Team Europe side who were big favourites.

“No one beats Team World five times in a row,” the American said. “Felix stepped up big time. Frances is prime time, we saw that at the US Open. This is an incredible team event and I’m loving every second of it.”

On Saturday, Djokovic produced a stunning performance to thrash Tiafoe in his first match since winning Wimbledon in July and then teamed up with Berrettini to put Team Europe in command.

With Federer watching on from courtside at a sold out O2 Arena, the day after his emotional farewell match alongside Rafa Nadal, Djokovic returned to action in spellbinding fashion.

Tiafoe was helpless to stop the Djokovic onslaught as the Serb won 6-1, 6-3 to put Team Europe into a 6-4 lead overall.

He then joined Berrettini, the man he beat in the 2020 Wimbledon final, to beat Team World duo Sock and Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-2.

Federer’s fitness issues meant he could only play one doubles match, so Berrettini was called into the Team Europe squad to replace the Swiss legend after the last act of his incredible career.

Berrettini proved a capable deputy as he defeated Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (13-11), 4-6, 10/7 in Saturday’s first match but American Taylor Fritz had drew Team World level at 4-4 in the second match with a tight 6-1, 4-6, 10-8 win against Briton Cameron Norrie — a stand-in for Nadal who left earlier in the day for personal reasons.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2022

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