Team World Brought All The Right Stuff Together To Win Their First Laver Cup

Team World, Laver Cup 2022 champions (photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, September 27, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Team World entered the final day of Laver Cup 2022 in London trailing four-time champion Team Europe 8-4 and needing to win three of four matches. While it wasn’t an impossible task, it would take everyone on John McEnroe‘s Team World squad coming together and playing inspired and focused tennis on Sunday.

With each win worth three points, match by match, Team World turned this year’s Laver Cup upside down and won three straight matches – all with exciting outcomes – to win the Laver Cup title for the first time.

It was quite a weekend to remember in London, which drew more than 96,000 tennis enthusiasts to the O2 Arena, first to bid farewell to Roger Federer, then to see Novak Djokovic‘s return to the ATP Tour after winning his seventh Wimbledon title, and, finally, to see Team World’s remarkable final-day comeback, in which Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frances Tiafoe of the United States shouldered the load and carried the team on their shoulders to triumph.

Auger-Aliassime gave Team World the lead on the final day thanks to a pair of wins, first by partnering with Jack Sock to edge Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray, 2-6, 6-3, 10-8, then by defeating Djokovic, 6-3, 7-6 (3). Next, Tiafoe fought off four match points during a second-set tie-break to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, which clinched the 13-8 victory for Team World.

When one considers what transpired, it’s pretty wild that a team with zero Grand Slam singles titles beat a team with 66 that featured Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (22), Djokovic (21) and Andy Murray (3). But that’s exactly what happened.

In praising his team during the trophy ceremony, Team World captain McEnroe said: “They brought the energy, belief and intensity.”

Later, McEnroe admitted: “It beats losing, that’s for sure. The difference was that we kept battling. There was a great team spirit. We knew we had a shot at it, but it was an uphill battle.”

While McEnroe likely would have been second-guessed for playing Auger-Aliassime back-to-back in Sunday’s first two matches, in hindsight it was a brilliant and tactical decision.

“This is something that’s discussed among all of us,” he said. “These guys know the ins and outs of what’s going to work best. Felix was ready for it, he had debuted last year, and  now he was ready to step up to the big time.”

Auger-Aliassime said he enjoys the challenge that comes from playing in team events, “feeling I can bring something not only to myself but to the team. I feel like it pushes me also to stay positive, to dig deep, that feeling that I’m not only playing for myself, I’m trying to bring something to the team, bring a point to the team.”

Tiafoe added: “All week leading up I kept saying this was our year. The guys showed up. Felix beat Novak, Jack and Felix also played unbelievable doubles. We did it all together, it wasn’t just me.”

Coming off a semifinal run at the US Open, which boosted his ranking to a career-best World No. 19, Tiafoe has been playing some of the best tennis of his career. He said he would rank his Laver Cup-clinching victory over Tsitsipas among his best.

“To do it here in Laver Cup, to win for the first time, given how bad Mac wanted it, how bad everybody else wanted it, seeing what Felix and Jack did – I thought it was just time. It was time to get it done,” Tiafoe said during his team’s final press conference.

Looking back, as New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey suggested in a tweet Sunday evening, “[the] Laver Cup has proven that it is value added for tennis.

“Its future is up to the players. If the best ones commit to it consistently and continue to care about the outcome it will thrive.”

Murray praises Laver Cup format, future of event

During press after losing Sunday’s opening doubles match alongside Matteo Berrettini, Andy Murray was asked what he liked about the Laver Cup. He said:

“From a player’s perspective, this event is special an it is unique, and you cannot be on the tennis court with all of these guys, top players that we all have huge respect for, and the captains on the side of the court, Rod Laver in the stands and not care, like, about the result.

“I believe this competition has a lot of potential for the future. You know, I’m sure Roger is going to stay involved in the event in some capacity and maybe one day, you know, captain the team and things like that.

“For all tennis players, that is special to be a part of. I like the format, as well. It keeps all of the matches interesting. … Yeah, I think it works well.”

What Federer will remember about this year’s Laver Cup

While Roger Federer admitted he would not miss losing press conferences, calling them “the worst,” wins and losses aside, the Swiss start said this year’s Laver Cup competition would remain special to him – especially the sendoff he received Friday evening after playing in the final match of his pro career.

“Being on court on Friday and having such a huge moment in my career, being surrounded by my biggest rivals like Novak and Andy and Rafa was truly unique, and I can never thank them enough for being there and staying there and going through it with me,” he said.

“I hope that their farewell will also be unique and special, that it works for them, because it was beautiful for me.”

By the numbers

• Total attendance for Laver Cup 2022 reached 96,154, which includes an open practice session on Thursday. Peak attendance came during Friday’s night session as 16,482 witnessed Roger Federer’s final match as a professional. The second-largest crowd, 16,385, attended Sunday’s final day of competition.

• Among the VIP guests who attended the Laver Cup were: actor Hugh Grant, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, fashion designer Stella McCartney, Downton Abbey actress Joanne Froggat, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, actor Tom Hiddleston, British F1 driver George Russell and Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Singer Ellie Goulding sang during the Roger Federer retirement ceremony Friday evening.

• More than 350 media, including broadcasters, journalists and photographers from 35 countries were onsite to cover Laver Cup 2022. The competition was broadcast in more than 220 countries and territories.

• Laver Cup 2023 will be held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, from September 22-24, 2023. Both team captains, John McEnroe (Team World) and Bjorn Borg (Team Europe) are expected to return.

“Quotable …”

• “Not the best result, not something I expected after having that lead and so many opportunities during that match.

“We all give our part. We do the best we can. That’s what I tried pulling off today. There is nothing that I regret. I did what I had to do. I played with my heart. I played for the team. I played for my continent.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way I wanted it. We move on. I’m pretty optimistic for the future. Hopefully I can return to this competition and win multiple Laver Cup titles with my teammates.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Team Europe, following his loss to Frances Tiafoe, which clinched the Laver Cup title for Team World.

“I got news for you. These guys are going to step up big time in the future, not just here. It’s going to be incredible the next five years. Not just for Team World but for these individuals as well I’m just so proud that I was part of that.”

– Team World captain John McEnroe, during Sunday’s post-match press conference praising his team.