McEnroe on Team World Repeat: ‘We’ve Got to Nurture This’
It was a well-earned cigar. John McEnroe, after all, had been on the other side of it, having come up short against Team Europe in the first four editions of the Laver Cup. Now he was basking in Team World’s second straight title at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, those losses to his old rival Bjorn Borg a little more dulled.
It was time to celebrate.
“We kicked some a–, baby,” he said. “That’s what we did.”
“We’re already thinking about next year because, you know, winning is a whole lot better than losing. We struggled the first couple years, and now we have tasted winning and it feels good. Thank you, boys.”
McEnroe, now 64 and far removed from those days when he raised Cain on the hallowed lawns of the All England Club, was suddenly one of the boys again, as giddy as those champagne-imbibed players celebrating around him.
“These guys, I just tried to sort of figure out what makes them tick in a very short period of time. If I could add that tiny little bit, hopefully, I bring some energy and passion. I think the guys here know I love the event and I believe in this event. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve been around for a while. To me, this is something that I wasn’t expecting, so we’ve got to nurture this.”
McEnroe paused, then began again: “Hopefully, when I’m gone…”
“You ain’t going nowhere, man,” barked Frances Tiafoe, who for the second straight year had a hand in clinching the Cup for his captain, his teammates, a dominant 13-2 defeat of Team Europe.
“They made me feel like one of them since the first day,” said Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, the lone South American among a team full of North Americans.
Cerundolo had contributed to the outcome, a 6-3, 7-5 win over Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Day 1. In fact, all six of McEnroe’s players — Tiafoe, Cerundolo, Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Tommy Paul and rookie sensation Ben Shelton — had contributed at least one point, making it a true team effort.
“The level from everyone in this team all week was amazing. Everyone showed up and played about as good as they could possibly play. That’s why we got it done with the scoreline that we did,” said Fritz, the highest-ranked player on the Team World roster at No. 8.
“It’s amazing to come back winning after last year,” he continued. “We all got to celebrate last year and it was so much fun. It was one of my top memories since I have played tennis. We all wanted that again this year, and we got it. It’s great to go back-to-back, and now we all want to come back next year and do it all again. It’s just different as opposed to when you’re on the tour playing by yourself and you win something. It’s just not the same as this. When you win something with all these guys and all your close friends, you get to celebrate it. You get to enjoy it a lot more.”
“I’m proud of these guys,” said McEnroe. “We brought together a great group of some youth and experience, guys that have been here before. Everybody played well.”
“It turned out it was a great mix. It really was. A team event like this I think is not only good for the sport, it’s good for the players in a way that they are able to sort of get together and rally around. Because a lot of tournaments, it’s like an unwritten rule, you can’t root for anyone, you’ve just got to worry about yourself. These team events take even more importance in my mind, to be able to do this and do it successfully, and that’s what we proved this year.”
Auger-Aliassime, who reveled in playing in his native Canada, was especially proud of his team’s ability to withstand the pressure.
“Like Mac said, to win is the best feeling. It’s nice a year later after what we had done in London to come back and win here in Vancouver. That’s what we wanted a week ago when we arrived. We did it. We backed it up and stepped up to the challenge and made it happen.”
“I had very little to do with it,” said McEnroe, cigar still in hand. “But it was awesome to be out there, and we all brought some intensity, some fun, and some energy to it. It just worked out perfect.”