Team World Not Looking Too Far Ahead
John McEnroe could get used to this. After four straight defeats to his career-long rival Bjorn Borg and the Swede’s always-deep Team Europe lineup, it’s Team World that has snatched the silvery Laver Cup (and, perhaps more importantly, the momentum).
Gearing up for Friday’s Day 1 start, the sexagenarian once known as the Super Brat is clearly enjoying his squad’s status as defending champs.
“It’s awesome that we finally did it,” he told the gathered media on Thursday at Rogers Arena. “We’re excited. I think anyone who’s followed this event knows that I love it and what it represents to me, idolizing Rod [Laver] and having Roger [Federer] be part of it, the team spirit, which I always loved with Davis Cup. It’s awesome to be back.”
His team boasts home favorites in Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic, but McEnroe is perhaps even more excited by the presence of four Americans, led by Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul.
“I think these three have shown over the years that they have helped each other, gone at it against each other, trained and have fed off each other, and that’s made them better players,” he said. “They are this close now to making that breakthrough. That’s a great thing.”
Add emerging superstar Ben Shelton to the mix, and McEnroe more than likes his team’s chances of a repeat.
Younger brother and Team World Vice-Captain Patrick McEnroe, who once headed USTA Player Development, remembers when the trio he now calls “the veterans” were just making their way in the juniors, when Fritz, Paul and Tiafoe were regularly in contention for Junior Grand Slam titles.
“To see how far they’ve come is amazing,” he said
But you won’t catch team-leader Fritz, who’s climbed as high as No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, getting too far ahead of himself. He’s been through this before. Given the Laver Cup format, which sees the points – and the stakes – grow by the day, you can never really relax.
“It always comes down to the wire either way,” said Fritz, who turns 26 next month. “Europe has always been the favorite, but it’s also been really close almost every year. Maybe we might be the favorites this year with winning it last year, having such a strong team, but we can’t be thinking like that because it’s probably going to come down to the wire either way. We have to treat it like all the other years.”