Boston blues: Team World eyes future
No one thought it would be easy, certainly not John McEnroe. The Team World mentor had been on the losing end before, after all, winless in three previous Laver Cup outings dating back to 2017.
Even without the Big Three of Federer/Nadal/Djokovic, Bjorn Borg had assembled one of his most potent Team Europe lineups, one that featured no fewer than six Top-10 players, including reigning US Open champion and World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud. All six would account for at least one win during the three-day showdown at TD Garden in Boston, the final score 14-1, the most one-sided victory in the four-year history of the event.
Afterward, McEnroe would paraphrase his late friend Vitas Gerlulaitis, who after finally getting over the hump against Jimmy Connors, famously said, “Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row.”
“I’m starting to feel that way, but hopefully it will be the last time,” said McEnroe. “No one wins the Laver Cup, beats us, John McEnroe, five times in a row. You’ve got to keep going. To me, that was the greatest line ever said in our sport. It’s got to be an inspiration to us.”
Not that the seven-time major titlist was displeased with his team’s effort.
“We battled our best,” he said. “Team Europe is a great team, no question, incredible team. They had good team spirit. We did, as well. If you get a couple of different results, we could have put more pressure on them. But we just came up short in four tiebreakers. You win half those, it’s totally different story. We gave it our best, but they were just too good.”
What’s daunting is that the current incarnation of Team Europe is both deeply skilled and young. Looking ahead, Borg & Co. could maintain a stranglehold on the trophy for the foreseeable future.
“Team World is going to keep coming out here and battling the underdog role, something that is pretty special, and we have made this event close a bunch of times,” said John Isner, the team’s senior statesman at 36 and a veteran of all four Laver Cup clashes in Prague, Chicago, Geneva and Boston.
“I think I speak for everyone here, whether I play again or not, who knows, but for the future newcomers, there is no one who I would rather play for than Captain McEnroe. [He’s] one of the biggest legends our sport has ever seen, one of the biggest personalities in a very, very good way.
I do think Team World will get one of these eventually.”
If/when that happens, it will likely be without fiery Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who has made it clear that this is his favorite week of the year. The 26-year-old, despite his No. 95 ranking the very heart and soul of the team, says he has played his last Laver Cup.
“I’m sure I won’t be here again, so I took everything in this week,” said Kyrgios, who has accounted for some momentum-building Laver Cup wins over the last few years on both the singles and doubles court. “I will be watching from my couch next Laver Cup, cheering on, cheering for Team World.”
“It’s a special event,” he added. “Rod is an icon of the sport. To have Roger [Federer] sitting on the side watching me being alongside these guys, it’s special. It’s unfortunate I haven’t been a part of the winning team yet. I think that something will change in the years to come. World will get over the line. But it’s been fun. My best memories have been on the Laver Cup court. I have had a good run. I feel like I have done Team World proud. I hold my head up high for what I have done for this team. I think I have given everything.”
The TV monitors in the TD Garden interview room cruelly showed Team Europe’s on-court celebration during Team World’s post-match press conference, causing Isner to turn away.
“We definitely expected this match to be closer, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t come away with some great memories,” said Isner, who with Canada’s Denis Shapovalov accounted for Team World’s lone point in doubles on Day 1. “But their team is very good. They are absolutely stacked, and we were up against it, and just definitely came up pretty far short.”