Roger Federer couldn’t hide his disappointment after watching Frances Tiafoe prove the pantomime villain for a second time at this weekend’s Laver Cup as his epic comeback denied the Swiss one final trophy.
A 1-6, 7-6, 10-8 victory for the US Open semi-finalist in the 11th match of the Ryder Cup-style team competition over Stefanos Tsitsipas helped Team World win the tournament for the fifth time.
Tiafoe’s remarkable victory saw John McEnroe’s group reach the magical 13-point mark first on a dramatic and exciting Sunday at the O2, where they won the inaugural Laver Cup with a 13-8 score. It was Tiafoe, who teamed with Jack Sock on Friday night to defeat Federer and Rafael Nadal in an emotional doubles contest that brought down the curtain on the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s glittering professional career, and it was the American , who again made difference 48 hours later.
For Federer, defeat still hurts despite everything he has achieved, including eight Wimbledon titles.
“Yes, of course I’m disappointed. I was in the team, almost lost my voice and my hands hurt from clapping,” admitted the 41-year-old. “We want a different result. I told Andy [Murray] I don’t like losing in the locker room. This is not fun. It just doesn’t leave the best taste, you know. I think once you’ve been there and tasted success, it’s just not the same.
“I hope tonight will be a reasonably enjoyable evening. Of course, this weekend was anything but good for me. I enjoyed it but it’s a shame we couldn’t win.”
On the third and final day of the competition, Federer still had hopes of adding another title to his illustrious resume, with Team Europe leading 8-4.
Felix Auger-Aliassime had other ideas for Team World with success against Andy Murray and Matteo Berrettini in doubles alongside Sock and followed up with an even better performance in the second game. Auger-Aliassime stunned Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 to pull Team World back from the abyss to be just one triumph away from the silverware.
It was Tiafoe’s turn to finish the job but he lost the first set to a caged Tsitsipas in 21 minutes. However, the Greek couldn’t maintain his performance and after a marathon tiebreak in the second set that lasted as long as the first set meant a deciding set was needed.
During the 10-point tie-break for the match and eventual cup, Tiafoe kept his cool and produced clutch tennis. He made a drop shot despite starting from behind the baseline and also saved four match points to help Team World make history, spoiling Federer’s bye again.
Tiafoe joked: “[Federer] has a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years after beating everyone on the tour!
“No I won’t apologize but thank you for having me at this amazing event you know what he did for the game and thank you too for what he did for the game . He’s a class. Happy to know him, Happy to call him a friend, Happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes for his second act, but I won’t apologize.”
McEnroe won’t be around long to get the big calls right. He conceded that the 2023 edition of the Laver Cup in Vancouver would be his last and opposite number
Bjorn Borg revealed the same after his first experience of losing at the event.
“I think I’ll probably feel the same way,” Borg admitted. “This is year five and if we could be another year at six, three times in Europe and three times in North America, that would be perfect. I’m really looking forward to doing another one, yes, as is John, to spend with these great players.
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