WATCH: Roger Federer's speech after Team Europe's loss to Team World

LONDON—On four occasions Sunday evening at The O2 Arena, Taylor Fritz was a point away from stepping into a winner-take-all match at the Laver Cup for Team World.

That clash with this year's two-time major finalist Casper Ruud never happened, though, thanks to Frances Tiafoe’s heroics against Stefanos Tsitsipas. When his countryman staved off four match points to force a deciding match tiebreaker, Fritz made a point of cutting short his own preparation to show Tiafoe he had his back all the way.

“I felt like it was important that I went out on the court and was there, kind of showed him I’m not warming up for my match cause I truly fully believe in him. This is it,” Fritz told Tennis Channel after Tiafoe clinched the squad’s first title over Team Europe, 1-6, 7-6 (11) [10-8].

The unheralded international bunch came into the day with an 8-4 deficit to surmount, knowing three victories would be required. After Felix Auger-Aliassime upstaged Novak Djokovic to put Team World in front for the first time (10 to 8), Fritz pulled Tiafoe aside for a pep talk.

“I talked to Frances in the locker room and said, ‘Hey, act like we didn’t win that match. We gotta act like we need this to stay in. Don’t feel like we have that safety net where I can play that final match. This is you, step up and that’s it.’ And he did,” said Fritz.

“I don’t think we were expecting to just blow through three in a row. We were playing for that final match.”


Team World was understandably hyped, having swept all three matches Sunday in surging to victory.

Team World was understandably hyped, having swept all three matches Sunday in surging to victory.

On Friday, Tiafoe saved a match point alongside Jack Sock to deny Roger Federer a winning retirement sendoff with Rafael Nadal. The next night, he was blitzed by Djokovic, 6-1, 6-3, in his first singles match since reaching the US Open semifinals.

It took some time for Tiafoe to get the “juices flowing again” following his breakthrough major run, which saw the Hyattsville, Md. native oust Nadal and Andrey Rublev and push eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz to five sets with former First Lady Michelle Obama cheering him on. But with Auger-Aliassime’s inspiring effort, Tiafoe felt he was never out of it against Tsitsipas despite being blown out in 20 minutes to drop the opening set.

“Obviously when I came out, it didn’t seem like it, but that helped me free up to believe I could finish the job. And I felt confident if I didn’t, Fritz could do it,” said Tiafoe. “I had a group message. I was like, ‘Guys we can do this. It’s an uphill battle for sure, but we really can do this.’ Jack and Felix set the precedent. Felix beating Novak was [an] unbelievable effort.

“We all definitely deserved it. Guys really put their head down and got after it.”

Tremendously, Tiafoe pulled it off despite finishing with 63 total points to the Greek’s 81. That stat left Andy Murray dumbfounded, as did the eventual outcome of his team being swept on the last day of the event.

“I’m gutted about the result. I don’t really know how that happened, to be honest. Stefanos, he won 18 more points in the match. I’ve never seen that on tour, where someone’s won that many more points and somehow the match hasn’t gone their way,” he said.

“I wish I could have done better for the team. I’ve never spent time like that with such great players on the tour. It just doesn’t happen, so I learned a lot.”


The winning squad is crowned champions.

The winning squad is crowned champions.

Among the quality conversations the two-time Wimbledon champion soaked up were back and forths with Federer, who was seen throughout the weekend fist pumping, cracking jokes and appreciating the company of his teammates. It was a rare dynamic Murray made the most of, even when on the receiving end of Federer's humor.

“He was sort of making fun of my accent a lot. When I would shout something out, he would generally comment about it,” said Murray. “It was good fun, I enjoyed spending time with him. He’s always open to chat.”

Added the outgoing 20-time major winner, “It was very nice that I was able to play Friday night and actually enjoy Saturday and Sunday. I stayed with the tennis community, with the tennis fans and I loved everything about that. So it was a wonderful weekend and I enjoyed every step of the way.”

As for Auger-Aliassime, 2022 has been some season in team competitions. In January, he and Denis Shapovalov guided Canada to the ATP Cup crown. Prior to arriving in London, the 22-year-old toppled world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz en route to leading his nation to the knockout phase of the Davis Cup Finals. For Auger-Aliassime, playing for a bigger purpose has consistently resulted in elevating his game when it counts.

“I feel like a bit of an obligation to give my all and really try to get every win when I play for my country or teammates,” he said. “This year I think whenever I’ve played for a team, I showed up and played great matches. I really gave my best effort.”

Laver Cup doesn’t award an MVP award, but Fritz, Sock, Tommy Paul and captain John McEnroe were unanimous in selecting Auger-Aliassime unofficially after his six-point contribution Sunday.

“We’ll call it the FVP for Felix,” suggested Sock.