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Team World Clinches Laver Cup Repeat

The bench erupts. Another Laver Cup in the bag. Photo: Ben Solomon

They love their hockey up here in Vancouver; Canuck mainstays like the Sedin twins, Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure, whose numbers hang high up in the Rogers Arena rafters. They love their poutine, too, their candied salmon and a Tokyo-meets-Coney Island amalgamation known as the Japadog.

They love a good winner, too, even more so when one or more of their homegrown athletes is involved. On Sunday, those gleeful Vancouverites would celebrate a second straight Laver Cup title for the red-emblazoned Team World, 13-2 winners over the Bjorn Borg-led Team Europe.

After suffering defeats in the first four editions of this global competition, founded in 2017, John McEnroe & Co. have sure flipped the narrative with the repeat.

Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe celebrate their doubles victory, shutting the door on Team Europe’s hopes of a Laver Cup comeback in 2023.

Heading into Day 3 with a commanding 10-2 advantage, Team World needed only a single match win to secure the Cup. As he did in 2022, Frances Tiafoe would have a hand in the clincher, this time joining 20-year-old rookie Ben Shelton for a 7-6(4) 7-6(5) dismissal of Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz in doubles.

Between singles and doubles, the American duo went a perfect three-for-three in 2023. But this was certainly a collective effort. All six of McEnroe’s starters — Tiafoe, Shelton, Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Francisco Cerundolo and top-ranked Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime — accounted for at least one point.

“I think once we got over the hump — if you haven’t done it and then you do it, you have more belief that you can,” observed the Team World Captain late Saturday night. “We came here and we sort of looked at what happened, a couple guys pulled out and we’re like, ‘Wait a minute, not only could we, but we should, in our minds, do it.”

And that they did.

The high-quality opening set was decided in a tiebreak. With Shelton serving for the set at 6-4 in the breaker, Tiafoe forced a forehand volley error from the tireless Hurkacz, who was playing his third match in a 24-hour span.

Shelton’s lefty serve proved an especially tricky solve for Team Europe, as the one-time Florida Gator and NCAA singles titlist mixed his speeds effectively and repeatedly hit his spots. Appropriately, Shelton would serve it out at 6-5 in the second-set tiebreak, his teammates mobbing him on the court in celebration.

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