Team Europe reflects on the one that got away
Keen observers of Laver Cup no doubt clocked that last year’s lopsided result in Boston was a tad misleading.
Team World collected one win but many more could have followed since six of the nine matches stretched to Laver Breaker deciders. Five went Team Europe’s way.
The tables were truly turned in London this edition, depriving Roger Federer of being on the winning side in his professional farewell.
Five of seven Laver Breakers went against Bjorn Borg’s superstar side in the 8-13 loss that produced one gripping moment after another in front of the 81,384 fans that gathered at The O2 Arena over the three days.
In two of those, Team Europe even held a match point.
That included on Sunday, when an 8-4 lead evaporated. Stefanos Tsitsipas led by a set and held four of those match points in the second set tiebreak to force a one-match decider, only for the electrifying Frances Tiafoe to rally and give Team World a coveted maiden title.
The fine margins indeed fell mostly the visitors’ way.
“Not the best result, not something I expected after having that lead and so many opportunities during that match,” said Tsitsipas, ending a Laver Cup three-match singles win streak.
“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.”
Borg is ever even tempered — just like when he ruled the game decades ago — and was not about to change as he summed up his feelings.
“To have the Big Four, and they are different (than) the younger generation, the players here, it’s been fantastic,” said Borg in a media conference with his players alongside. “Roger here, one of the greats, retiring from tennis, stepped away, and we are all a little bit sad about that.
“But we had a good time. Of course we wanted to win. That’s why we are here. We were here to try to defend our title but we didn’t. They had a good three days. This time they were better than us.”
Federer hadn’t played since Wimbledon last year, although still acquitted himself well and was a point away from ending his career with a win in lining up with good mate Rafael Nadal.
Nadal himself had played five matches since the US Open.
Novak Djokovic contested his first matches since Wimbledon and won the first two on Saturday night before a wrist injury hampered the 21-time Grand Slam winner in a defeat to an inspired Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Andy Murray, a Big Four member, endured a tough week in Davis Cup and fell in both his tussles in his Laver Cup debut, one in singles and one in doubles with Matteo Berrettini. Yes, both in those Laver Breakers.
“I feel like I have said this a lot recently, but I felt like we played a good match,” said Murray, who donned a bit of taping under a knee on Sunday. “I thought we were a solid team and did enough to win the match.
“We just didn’t manage to get over the line. It’s a shame, because I enjoyed playing a lot with Matteo. He played very well.”
Asked what he would miss, Federer began with, “Not the losing press conferences, I tell you that. They are the worst.”
But away from the wins and losses, Team Europe’s final word should fall to Federer, and more specifically about the Friday night beamed to millions around the world.
“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.”