Federer, McEnroe push for Laver Cup’s place in team tennis

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GENEVA — Team events are having quite the resurgence on the men’s tennis circuit, with three different competitions scheduled in the four months. What’s still unclear, though, is whether they can all co-exist.

“Something’s got to shake out,” John McEnroe acknowledged Thursday, ahead of captaining a six-man world team in the annual Laver Cup event.

The three-day Laver Cup, co-owned by and starring Roger Federer, started in 2017 while the International Tennis Federation sought a new format for the historic but ailing Davis Cup. It pits a team of European stars against a selection of players from the rest of the world.

The revamped Davis Cup arrives in November with 18 nations – though not Federer’s Switzerland – playing over seven days in a single city, Madrid, to end the 2019 season.

Another team event launches the 2020 season – the inaugural 24-nation ATP Cup played Jan. 3-12 in Australia. Then there’s the Tokyo Olympics as well, another addition to an already packed schedule.

Federer has committed to playing at the ATP Cup but hasn’t made up his mind yet on the Olympics. He is confident, though, that there is room in the calendar for all three team events.

“Absolutely,” Federer said Thursday, at the Europe squad’s Laver Cup news conference in Geneva.

“There were places in the past for four different Davis Cup matches,” Federer said, recalling the February-April-September-November fixtures he and Stan Wawrinka played to lift the 2014 trophy. “Now it’s less than that” for the three separate team tournaments.

Since Switzerland won its first and only Davis Cup title, Federer has only played a single fixture to gain eligibility for the 2016 Olympics.

Few expect the 38-year-old Federer to fit a Davis Cup comeback into his selective schedule. He would likely get a wild-card exemption for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, if he decides to play there.

McEnroe noted there was no Olympic tennis for most of his career, during which he committed to the Davis Cup more than most peers.

“Davis Cup was an important part of my life and career, a chance to represent your country,” he said, adding that the competition founded in 1900 was only recently “on life support.”

Then came a flurry of team formats.

“(This) radical change finally took place after way too long,” McEnroe said. “Now they have this, what’s it called, ATP Cup. So we have three of them when it almost seemed like there was none.”

Players need an invitation to be part of the Laver Cup, where they get to be around 1960s great Rod Laver and play with or against Federer.

“They’ve gotten their heart and soul involvement here,” McEnroe said, adding the competition “should be something to survive.”

The ITF governing body has a 25-year Davis Cup deal with the Kosmos agency, whose investors include Gerard Pique, the celebrated Spain and Barcelona soccer player.

Federer said tennis players enjoy being in a team, and he is curious how the relaunched Davis Cup and the ATP Cup debut are received.

“Is it (the calendar) still going to be like that in 10 years? We don’t know,” Federer said. “We’ll have more information in six months.”

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.