Tiafoe earns 1st Davis Cup win
as U.S. eliminated from Finals
Arthur Kapetanakis | November 28, 2021
Frances Tiafoe saved two match points and won a third-set tiebreak to pick up his first career Davis Cup win, but it was not enough to see Team USA through to the quarterfinals at the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals. Tiafoe defeated Colombia's Nicola Mejia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, to put the U.S. on the board in Turin, Italy, but when John Isner dropped a third-set breaker against Daniel Elahi Galan, it eliminated the U.S. from quarterfinal contention.
Colombia won the doubles point—and the tie, 2-1—through retirement. Neither team had a chance to advance with the doubles rubber pending. The pairings were Reilly Opelka and Jack Sock for the U.S., and Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah for Colombia.
Tiafoe earns first Davis Cup win
A late addition to the team as a replacement for Taylor Fritz, Tiafoe was on vacation in Cabo, Mexico, with his girlfriend when he got the call. ADVERTISEMENT He went from mimosas to the madness of the Davis Cup Finals, arriving in Turin only after some flight issues.
But once he took the court Sunday, Tiafoe left it all on the line in a see-saw match that saw both men save multiple match points. First Mejia saved three on serve at 5-6 in the deciding set, then Tiafoe saved a couple from 6-4 in the tiebreak. After two hours, 38 minutes, the American sealed a 9-7 breaker with an ace, his fifth of the match.
"It felt extremely good," Tiafoe said following the match. "Never won a Davis Cup match before."
This was Tiafoe's third Davis Cup match. He dropped both of his previous matches in Croatia in 2018, including an epic five-setter against Borna Coric that decided the tie.
"Last tie... it was super emotional, so I know how it feels on the other side," he reflected. "Yeah, it was emotional [today], but in the end I'm happy I got a win for everybody and I put myself on the line for the country.
Sunday's match featured great athleticism and defense from both men, with Tiafoe doing just enough to win the tactical battle.
"He was playing so well," Tiafoe said of his world No. 275 opponent. "I was throwing a lot of stuff at him, doing some cat and mouse, ripping my forehand, coming to the net. I tried to stay in some long rallies. He was just always there, it seems."
The match was played in front of a lively atmosphere at Pala Alpitour arena in Turin. Though the Colombia enjoyed the lion's share of support, Tiafoe still enjoyed playing in—and contributing to—the energy in the building.
"People were going crazy. People were really into it. For me, I mean, I don't mind... As long as there's people in the stadium, whether cheering for me or not cheering for me. Usually when I'm playing well I can get the crowd relatively even.
"But as long as there's people in there, if they are cheering against me, that's totally fine. I just like an atmosphere. I feel like that's what it's about. You work so hard to play in front of people and show people what you can do. Whether they are for me or not, I just like to be in an atmosphere, if I can play, I can enjoy, I really want to compete."
Isner edged by Galan in third-set tiebreak
Isner responded well after a tough Friday outing against Italy's Jannik Sinner, but fell just short against Colombia's leading man in Galan. Needing to win in straight sets to give the U.S a realistic chance of advancing as one of the two best runners-up in Finals group play, Isner was frustrated early by steady play from Galan, who did not make an unforced error in the opening set.
The American battled back to force a third set, and had a break point a 5-all, but Galan won three straight points for 6-5. After a love hold behind two aces (of 13 in the match), Isner won four straight points to build a 5-4 lead in the decisive tiebreak. But Galan answered back by taking the final three points of the match for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 win.
"It was a fun experience," Isner said of the Finals on the whole. "In a team competition, I wish I could have helped my team out more, and I didn't. It's pretty disappointing. You know, you feel like you sort of let the guys down. I mean, I know they don't feel that way, but it's hard for me not to feel that way.
"That's really the beauty of these competitions. It's the beauty of it, and it's the beast of it too."
Despite the loss, Isner was full of praise for his teammates and captain Mardy Fish, calling Tiafoe's win "very impressive," and adding this on Fish: "Mardy, it's a great honor for me to play under him. He's a guy that I played against a bunch. Yeah, he's a great Davis Cup captain. We have had a lot of good ones over the years, and he certainly fits in well.
"Our result here is, in my opinion, definitely not on him at all. We fought hard, and we really enjoy our time with him."
Captain Fish reflects
Both Tiafoe and Isner credited Fish for his work as captain, and Fish shared his appreciation for his players and their commitment to Team USA.
"We came over here, we sacrificed. A lot of people sacrificed a lot to come over here with Team USA and the USTA. And Thanksgivings are valuable at home for me personally, and I know John has three kids now. You know, there is a lot of us that love to be home for Thanksgiving. So a lot of us sacrificed a lot of stuff, you know, being in this great competition.
"So it certainly hurts to not come out with a win in any of these matches. Obviously we will be back. We've got a tie in early March home or away that we'll need to get right."