Felix/Shelton, Tiafoe Move Team World To Brink Of Laver Cup Title
Team World moved to within one win of retaining its Laver Cup title on Saturday night when Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton downed Hubert Hurkacz and Gael Monfils to give John McEnroe’s side a 10-2 lead against Team Europe.
After Casper Ruud had given Team Europe its first points earlier on Saturday, Frances Tiafoe responded to regain momentum for Team World. Auger-Aliassime and Shelton’s 7-5, 6-4 victory means Team World need to win one of the remaining four matches on Sunday to lift the trophy for the second consecutive year. Each match on Sunday will be worth three points.
"It is amazing," Shelton said. "When you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix and is as athletic as him and goes back for the overhead and is as strong as him. It is a fun time out here. We call him Laver Cup Felix because he turns into something special this week. I am happy I got to share the court with him at least once."
Competing in Vancouver, Canadian Auger-Aliassime and American Shelton won 81 per cent (42/52) of their first-serve and points and saved all three break points they faced to triumph after one hour and 23 minutes.
Tiafoe faced pressure Saturday evening when he stepped on court at the Laver Cup. Not only was the American trying to halt Team Europe's momentum after Ruud won the second match of the day, but Tiafoe was trying to flip the script against Hurkacz, who had won their past three Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings.
Mission accomplished for the 25-year-old. Tiafoe defeated Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3.
"I just think being in a team environment is so foreign to us tennis players," Tiafoe said. "It is such an individual sport. But I just came out and I just want to compete for the guys and play well for the guys. I want to put on a show.
The No. 11 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Tiafoe had lost three consecutive singles matches entering the encounter. But after earning a doubles victory alongside Tommy Paul on Friday evening, Tiafoe rose to the occasion in Vancouver. He harnessed the energy of the crowd to withstand 11 aces from Hurkacz.
In the critical moments, it was the American who thrived. Tiafoe saved the only break point he faced while converting three of his five opportunities to triumph after one hour and 13 minutes.