By Ricky Dimon
Roger Federer’s retirement may have overshadowed everything, but the end result of the 2022 Laver Cup was nothing short of shocking.
Team Europe, which 4-0 all time in the competition and was a massive favorite going into this year’s event, seized a commanding 8-4 lead following Saturday’s quartet of matches. Captain Bjorn Borg’s side needed to take only two of the four rubbers on Sunday, while underdog Team World had to win at least three of the four.
Well, Team World did not even need a fourth and final match to earn its three wins. Back-to-back-to-back victories for the visitors on Sunday afternoon propelled them to an improbable 13-8 triumph. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock beat Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray in the opening doubles match before Auger-Aliassime upset Novak Djokovic and Frances Tiafoe took down Stefanos Tsitsipas for the clinching points–giving captain John McEnroe his first trophy in five tries at the Laver Cup.
Tiafoe, a recent U.S. Open semifinalist, saved four match points during his 1-6, 7-6(11), 10-8 victory over Tsitsipas.
“I couldn’t place it right now,” Tiafoe said when asked where this ranks in his career highlights. “But it’s definitely up there. To do it here [at the] 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.”
“This is amazing,” McEnroe assured as the champagne flowed in celebration. “It’s obviously great for us and it’s great for me, but it’s also great for the event. Thank God (Team) World won, right? Even the press can agree with that!
“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.”
On paper McEnroe’s squad was overmatched from the start. World No. 12 Taylor Fritz was the highest-ranked team member; he would have been fifth highest on a European juggernaut that featured Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Berrettini, Murray, Federer, Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud, and Cameron Norrie. However, Federer and Nadal were both out following the Swiss’ farewell doubles match, Djokovic had not played since Wimbledon, Murray is way past his physical prime, and Tsitsipas has been slumping.
Perhaps the majority of the tennis world was too caught up in the Federer hoopla to realize this could actually be a competitive Laver Cup. But not Team World. It believed from the start, and now it has finished as champion for the first time.
Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.