Frances Tiafoe's heroics help Team World win 2022 Laver Cup
It was a win worth waiting for, and it happened in style. Frances Tiafoe's Sunday heroics helped Team World win the 2022 Laver Cup and end Europe's four-year reign of dominance in the competition.
Entering the final day of the three-day event trailing 8-4 on the overall scoreboard, captain John McEnroe's side had its back against the wall during a weekend that was already set to be etched in tennis history. However, with each win worth three points for each team's tally on the last day, Team World found something special: its own story for the ages.
Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime chipped in two victories to start Sunday's play; first, he and Jack Sock paired for a 2-6, 6-3, [10-8] over Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray in doubles, and next, he stunned Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6(3) to put Team World in the lead for the first time all weekend. That set the stage for Tiafoe to clinch victory, and he delivered in a thriller.
Saving four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Tiafoe defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6(11), [10-8] and give Team World an unassailable 13-8 lead.
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” Tiafoe said in his on-court interview. “Our captain Jonny Mac was tired of losing ... saying we needed to get it done this year on his fifth try. 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 all did it together; it wasn’t just me. I showed a lot of heart to get this done. This is big. We are going to celebrate big tonight.”
All three Americans officially on the roster contributed to Team World's cause over the course of the three days. Tiafoe and Sock first teamed to hand Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal an emotional 4-6, 7-6(2), [11-9] defeat to close out Day 1—the Swiss legend's final tour-level match—and Taylor Fritz defeated Cameron Norrie on Saturday for Team World's only win on the middle day of play.
After losing the first match of the entire weekend—a 6-4, 5-7, [10-7] defeat to newly-minted world No. 2 Casper Ruud on Friday—Sock contributed four points to the team's cause over the whole weekend with two victories in doubles.
Play was even at 2-2 at the close of Friday's play; after Ruud's win and Tsitsipas' 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Diego Schwartzman, Team World first got on the board thanks to a 5-7, 6-3, [10-7] win for Alex de Minaur against Murray. Berrettini and Djokovic then gave Team Europe six total points on Saturday: After Berrettini defeated Auger-Aliassime in a titantic 7–6(11), 4–6, [10–7] to start the day and Fritz leveled the score at 4-4 with a 6-1, 4-6, [10-8] triumph over Norrie, Djokovic's 6-1, 6-3 win against Tiafoe put Europe ahead, and the lead grew to the aforementioned 8-4 lead on the strength of a 7–5, 6–2 triumph by Berrettini and Djokovic over de Minaur and Sock.
Europe was not only a point away from setting up a winner-take-all final match between Fritz and Ruud. After leading Sunday's opening doubles by a set, Berrettini and Murray led early in the match tiebreak at 4-2, and were two points away from a triumph that would've put Europe on the brink of a fifth straight title at 8-8.
"I think we all know the importance of that match to start the day," Sock said. "Being behind 11-4 would have been, safe to say, a difficult battle to come back from. We just turned it around. JMac was obviously staying positive the whole time on the bench. Felix and I were trying to pump each other up. They came out extremely hot. We just kind of had to ride the storm, obviously raise our level, and we were able to do that throughout the second and third."
"The format is a format that things can change in a hurry. Jack's been awesome for us," McEnroe added during the team's championship press conference. "You could see how close it was, the doubles. Felix, I've got to say, stepped up big time. Thank you so much for that. That was awesome.
"There was a great team spirit. We were battling from the beginning. So I think we felt that it is the 'Big Four,' but obviously the circumstances are a little different than they could have been 10 years ago, five years ago. So we knew we had a shot at it, but it was an uphill battle."