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Frances Tiafoe strolled into the press conference following Team World’s Laver Cup triumph against Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and said, “Champs are here!” as he entered, suiting his reputation in the locker room.
The 24-year-old Maryland native then sat down with his colleagues in front of the table holding the silver medal on Sunday night, set down his water bottle, and produced a Budweiser from within his red jacket while flashing his signature grin.
After saving four match points, Frances Tiafoe defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8 to give Team World its first victory in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company. Tiafoe’s performance was reminiscent of the infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month.
Twenty-time major winner Roger Federer declared, “I don’t enjoy losing” after his last match, a defeat to Tiafoe and Jack Sock in doubles, which marked his retirement. This is not a pleasant experience. Just doesn’t leave the greatest aftertaste.
Tiafoe dropped his racket and collapsed to the court on his back as his teammates poured on top of him after Tsitsipas hit a forehand into the net to conclude Sunday’s match and the three-day tournament. Tiafoe stood up, placed his palm to his ear, and pleaded with the crowd for greater noise. He then pointed at his chest and exclaimed, “I’m him!” I’m him!”
When the situation outside turns into a circus and I start playing to the audience and reacting like a child, the speaker says, “it becomes a circus.” Ultimately, I perform well, and I get confidence from that,” Tiafoe said. “I appear to be able to play and operate there better than my opponents.”
The other players on Team World gave Tiafoe the moniker “Prime Time” because of the enthusiasm with which he approaches important situations, and Team World captain John McEnroe echoed this sentiment when he commented, “Frances is Prime Time. He loves this stuff.”
McEnroe’s team had lost four matches under his leadership against Bjorn Borg’s Team Europe; both men said they planned to play again in 2023 at the Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that it may be their last.
This one was held as a tribute to Federer and his career, which he has continued to excel in despite being 41 years old.
When asked whether he owed Federer a “I’m sorry” for beating him in the final or for beating his team—which featured Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray—Tiafoe reacted with a joke. Between them, they own 66 major singles victories. That’s 66 more than the World Team, which consists of people in their twenties (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).
Frances Tiafoe and his team
I will not be apologizing to him. Tiafoe, who went 0-3 versus Federer in their head-to-head singles matches, said, “He’s got a lot to apologize for over the previous 24 years — after defeating everyone on the circuit.” To everyone involved in this incredible celebration of everything he has done for the game, I want to say, “Thank you.” What a gentleman he is. I’m glad to have met him and count him as a friend and colleague, and I wish him the best of luck in his next chapter of life. However, I will not be apologizing.
With an 8-4 advantage heading into Sunday’s game at O2 Arena, Europe was the clear favorite.
Day 3’s matches were worth three points each, and due to Felix Auger-Aliassime, 22, of Canada, Team World took the lead. After defeating Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles with Sock, he went on to defeat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3).
It wasn’t easy, but eventually Tiafoe made it 13-8.
At Flushing Meadows earlier this month, he set a tournament record by going 8-0 in tiebreakers, and on Sunday, he showed no signs of slowing down.
Frances has, for a long time, been giving the big boys a good fight but coming up short. American Taylor Fritz, who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years, stated, “It’s fantastic to see since he’s been winning.” It’s high time he takes charge and the tables are turned. A joke of a day, today.
In their second set tiebreaker, Tiafoe came within a point of losing four times against Tsitsipas, but he always managed to come out on top. With the score tied at four games each in the decisive tiebreaker (first to 10 points, win by two), Tiafoe rushed from outside the baseline to the net and just missed a drop shot by Tsitsipas, but managed to lunge and flick the ball into the net for an angled winner.
Tiafoe ran around the net and remained there, hands on his hips, enjoying the atmosphere, while the other 16,365 spectators went crazy.
Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, praised the 24-year-performance, old’s saying, “We placed him in the spot that he was in today for a purpose, and he stepped up for us, big time.”
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