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Team World defends Laver Cup title in Vancouver

Victory marks the first team the side has won back-to-back tournaments
Team World’s Taylor Fritz, centre left, and Ben Shelton, centre right, hoist the Laver Cup in front of their teammates, John McEnroe, back left, and Rod Laver, front left, after Team World defeated Team Europe 13-2 at the Laver Cup tennis tournament, in Vancouver, on Sunday, September 24, 2023. Team World claimed its second straight Laver Cup title on Sunday at Rogers Arena. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

For the very first time, Team World successfully defended its Laver Cup title.

Americans Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe beat Hubert Hurkacz and Andrey Rublev 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7) to help Team World hit the 13-point mark needed to defeat Team Europe.

“It felt unbelievable,” said Team World captain John McEnroe, who added how Team Europe had beaten Team World numerous times.

Montreal native Felix Auger-Aliassime, who was also a member of Team World last year, said the repeat victory was even more special with it taking place on Canadian soil.

“To win is the best feeling and it’s nice to come back after London and to do it in Vancouver,” he said.

Auger-Aliassime said he looks forward to having an opportunity to play as part of a team.

“Every time I play for a team, I feel really good,” he said. “The tour can, playing singles all the time, get lonely I guess. To have teammates and win as a team, for me it’s really special.”

Team World’s 2022 victory marked Swiss star Roger Federer’s last professional appearance before retiring.

Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., was attending the tournament as an alternate for Team World in case of injury, and took part in a doubles match after the cup presentation.

He was paired with Chris Eubanks as the pair took on Arthur Fils and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

“Milos is a guy who changed the way Canadians looked at our game of tennis,” McEnroe said of Raonic’s legacy.

Team World took a 10-2 lead in the tournament on Saturday to put itself in the driver’s seat.

The opening doubles match on Sunday featured several sustained rallies, with Shelton hitting a behind-the-back shot during the second game.

Both sets went to tiebreakers, with Team Europe pushing to stay in the hunt for its second win of the three-day tournament.

But it wasn’t meant to be as Hurkacz missed a drop shot, allowing Team World to clinch the win.

The Polish player threw his racket down onto the court and appeared visibly angry at the missed opportunity.

“It was just about the little details that didn’t go our way,” said Rublev after the match.

The match was a tight affair, with Team World just edging out their European counterparts 80 to 76 on points.

“We gave 100 per cent. Team World played unbelievable tennis every single match,” said Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg. “Of course we’re very disappointed. We didn’t expect to lose by this much, but what can you say? They played good tennis.”

Team World entered the final media conference of the tournament with champagne and McEnroe with a lit cigar.

“I’m pretty loaded right now,” joked Tiafoe while answering a question.

The tournament and players faced questions throughout the week about a relative lack of high-profile players as well as issues over how to fit the tournament into the ATP Tour’s schedule.

Team Europe star Casper Ruud said he hoped the competition would continue.

“I think it’s a great initiative,” he said. “Me, as a golf man, watching the Ryder Cup all my life, it’s great for tennis to has this event.”

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