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Team World seal Laver Cup title defence with doubles win

By AFP - Sep 25,2023 - Last updated at Sep 25,2023

Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe celebrate their doubles win that sealed Team World's Laver Cup victory over Team Europe in Vancouver, Canada (AFP photo)

VANCOUVER — Team World won a second straight Laver Cup title on Sunday as Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe sealed a 13-2 victory over Team Europe with a 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5) doubles win over Hubert Hurkacz and Andrey Rublev.

Team World captain John McEnroe, who had endured four straight defeats in the event that began in 2017 before seeing his side rally for victory in London last year, was thrilled to celebrate a dominant triumph that began with a four-match sweep on Friday.

"It felt unbelievable to kick their ass, baby!" McEnroe crowed. "They kicked ours many times, OK. It was a battle to the end when we won last year."

This time around, with a blend of youth and experience, McEnroe said he "felt it from the word go" against a Team Europe side that was without fourth-ranked Holger Rune of Denmark and world number five Stefano Tsitsipas of Greece, who both withdrew from captain Bjorn Borg's side with injuries.

That left sixth-ranked Rublev and Norway's ninth-ranked Casper Ruud as Europe's top players.

Ruud nabbed the visitors' only points of the three-day event with his victory over Tommy Paul on Saturday.

Europe was unable to build on that win, with Tiafoe downing Hurkacz in singles on Saturday night before Felix Auger-Aliassime and Shelton teamed up to beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils in doubles and put Team World one win away from victory heading into the final day.

"We stepped up, and I thought all the guys played great," said McEnroe, who also had singles wins from Americans Shelton and Taylor Fritz, Canada's Auger-Aliassime and Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo.

Every World Team player contributed at least a point, with Paul gaining a win alongside Tiafoe in doubles on Friday.

"This was like a special year for us," McEnroe said. "I know they're going to come back strong, but I'll take two in a row any day. And I'm starting to think is it possible three in a row, Team World?"

Auger-Aliassime, who had two key wins on the final day as Team World rallied for victory last year, was thrilled to lift the trophy in front of his home fans in Canada.

"Amazing to win on home soil with the crowd behind us," he said.

Shelton, the 20-year-old whose stunning run to the US Open semifinals saw him rise to 19th in the world, relished the team tournament environment and the chance to soak up some wisdom from McEnroe.

"Team World really brought the energy this week," Shelton said. "It's easy for me to play when I'm amped up and hyped and the bench has done a great job of hyping me up all week."

He and Tiafoe triumphed in a high-octane doubles finale marked by exciting, lightning-quick rallies.

Shelton and Tiafoe won 40 of their 48 first-serve points, but trailed in both tiebreakers before pulling off a bravura finish in each.

They were down 5-4 in the second-set decider but won the last three points to spark wild celebrations on the Team World bench.

"Being a part of it last year and clinching it last year was so emotional, first time," Tiafoe said. "John [McEnroe] was super excited. Now, being able to do it again in doubles with Ben, was a lot of fun."

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