Team World Extend Lead to 10-2 With Night Session Sweep
Doubles pairing Ben Shelton and Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frances Tiafoe each added two points to Team World’s Laver Cup Vancouver 2023 tally, extending their lead to 10-2 at the end of Day 2.
Tiafoe stormed past Hubert Hurkacz 7-5 6-3 during Saturday night’s first match, prompting an emphatic celebration from his teammates in red.
“I played really well tonight,” grinned 25-year-old Tiafoe. “Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
The affable American, who evened his head-to-head record against Hurkacz at three wins apiece, acknowledged that playing for more than just himself fueled his sense of purpose.
“I want to compete for the guys, I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe.
In his first Laver Cup match, the Polish world No. 16 started strong. Hurkacz held set point at 5-4 on Tiafoe’s serve, only for his rival to serve his way out of trouble. The first break of the match went Tiafoe’s way in the very next game, as Hurkacz, 26, sailed a forehand wide.
Brimming with confidence once he had the upper hand, Tiafoe closed out the opening set and then perfectly executed a backhand lob to break Hurkacz in the opening game of the second set.
Tiafoe’s skills at the net were tested, but the world No. 11 rose to the occasion, combining a behind-the-back forehand with a backhand volley winner that brought the Rogers Arena crowd to its feet. The right-hander maintained his composure to seal victory, which came courtesy of his Polish foe’s sole double fault.
Auger-Aliassime and Shelton thrilled the home crowd with an electric 7-5 6-4 win over Gael Monfils and Hurkacz.
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him Laver Cup Felix because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
“The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for teammates,” said Auger-Aliassime. “Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done,” added the Canadian, who squandered four match points at 5-3.
Ever the consummate professional, the 23-year-old toned down his optimism. “It’s not over yet, we get to go again tomorrow,” Auger-Aliassime said.
Team World Captain John McEnroe echoed the sentiment albeit with a wide smile. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”