c/o Laver Cup

c/o Laver Cup

The tennis world was changed forever during the 2022 Laver Cup, which gathered tennis greats and young fighters together for the fifth year since the tournament was first held in 2017. This year’s Laver Cup, held from Friday, Sept. 23 to Sunday, Sept. 25 in the O2 Arena in London, became the center of the sporting world following Roger Federer’s announcement that he would play his final professional tennis match as a doubles pair with longtime friend and great rival Rafael Nadal during the tournament. 

While the Laver Cup doesn’t award any Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour ranking points, all the players in attendance still looked as if they were putting in their best efforts to give the fans what they wanted. The two teams, Team Europe, captained by Björn Borg, and Team World, captained by John McEnroe, faced off in a combination of singles and doubles matches over three days of play, with each match worth one point on the first day, two points on the second, and three points on the third. 

On the first day of the tournament, it was hard to think of anything besides Federer’s impending retirement from professional tennis that night. The tennis legend’s final match would follow three singles matches, starting with Casper Ruud (Team Europe) and Jack Sock (Team World) facing off in the first matchup and Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) and Diego Schwartzman (Team World) in the next match. 

Team Europe won both of those opening day session fights without too much trouble, leaving them two points up to Team World as Andy Murray (Team Europe) took the stage against Alex de Minaur (Team World) in the night session. Murray put up an incredible fight against de Minaur, losing the first set 5–7 but managing to take the second set 6–3. In the super tiebreak, both players fought hard for every point, with Murray looking like he might seal it before ultimately falling to de Minaur 7–10 in the tiebreak.

Following the final singles match of the day, the match that everyone had been anticipating finally arrived as Federer and Nadal stepped onto the court to challenge Sock and Tiafoe. While Federer and Nadal pulled away with the first set, taking it 6–4, the second set was a much greater challenge for Team Europe. Sock and Tiafoe won the second set 7–6, taking the match to a third-set super tie break. The tiebreak looked too close to call, with Federer and Nadal managing to match the American pair and setting up match point at 8–7. However, Sock and Tiafoe fended off the danger of losing the match and managed to pull ahead to 9–8 before sealing the win, sending Federer away from the ATP tour with an incredibly close loss and a hard-fought match. 

As the two doubles teams walked off the court, all eyes were on Federer, watching the all-time great step away from the tennis court for the last time in his professional career. The farewell ceremony that followed was a fitting send-off for Federer, who has made an immeasurable impact on tennis and beyond the sport. To have him play doubles with his greatest rival, Nadal, while on a team with the other two members of the Big Four, who have shared a unique and incomparable competitive relationship over the past two decades, was an incredible way to allow Federer to share the moment with his greatest competitors. 

Following the emotions and drama of the first day of play, the Laver Cup continued with Federer also withdrawing from play to be replaced by Matteo Berrettini. Both teams sat at two points apiece as the first of the matchups between Berrettini and Felix Auger-Aliassime got underway, with Berrettini sealing the victory after the third set super tiebreak. The second match saw Cameron Norrie and Taylor Fritz face-off, with Fritz taking the first set easily. Though Norrie fought back in the second set, Fritz pulled away with the tiebreak in the third set to win the match and even up the two teams at 4–4. 

The night session kicked off with Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) and Tiafoe’s singles match, where Djokovic’s experience and skill were clearly at their highest level from the very start of the match. Djokovic looked impenetrable, sealing his win in a straight sets victory of 6–1, 6–3. Following Djokovic’s win, Berrettini and Djokovic then played doubles against Sock and young Australian Alex de Minaur (Team World). The European players kept Djokovic’s winning energy going, taking the first set 7–5 before closing it out in the second with a 6–2 scoreline. At the end of day two, Team Europe looked like they would pull away yet another Laver Cup win, closing out the night with a lead of 8 points to 4. 

c/o Roland Garros

c/o Roland Garros

However, as the third and final day of the tournament arrived, with the match lineup set to begin with Berrettini and Murray playing against Auger-Aliassime and Sock, Team World suddenly began to look undefeatable. Though Berrettini and Murray took the first set, the American and Canadian pair of Auger-Aliassime and Tiafoe took the second set before winning the third-set tiebreak to take match 2–6, 6–3, 10–8, winning three points for Team World.

Auger-Aliassime then played the first singles match of the day against Djokovic, where the odds seemed overwhelmingly in the Serbian player’s favor given his performance the night before. However, the young Canadian shocked the 21-time Grand Slam champion in straight sets, his victory in straight sets, winning 6–3, 7–6(7–3).

The surprising outcome of the first two matches of the day meant that Team World could take its first Laver Cup title if Tiafoe carried on the winning streak to the second singles matchup of the day, where he would play Tsitsipas. Though Tsitsipas took the first set in a seemingly straightforward 6–1, Tiafoe made a strong comeback in the second set, taking the two to a tiebreak before winning the second set 7–6(13–11). The third-set super tiebreak saw Tiafoe seal the match and the title for his team, allowing Team World to claim the Laver Cup for the first time in tournament history with a score of 13 points to Team Europe’s 8. The American player put in multiple strong performances leading up to his final singles match, including his doubles match with Sock against the partnership of Federer and Nadal. 

Following the end of the Laver Cup, the ATP Tour still has a few major events to look forward to before the end of the year, with the final Masters 1000 event of the year, the Rolex Paris Masters, the Davis Cup finals, and the year-end Nitto ATP Finals coming up. However, as any of the players at the Laver Cup or fans following the tournament from afar witnessed on Friday night, the tour will never be the same without Federer. 

Jem Shin can be reached at jshin01@wesleyan.edu.

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