Team Europe have opened up a ten-point advantage over Team World following completion of the second day’s play of the Laver Cup at the TD Garden in Boston.
It was a thrilling match and we just managed to close it in the best possible fashion with a stellar performance in a [match] tiebreak. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Bjorn Borg’s team dominated play on Day 2 of the team event winning all four matches to extend the score to 11-1 with just one day to play.
It is the biggest lead Team Europe (who have never lost the Laver Cup in the three previous editions), have held going into the final day.
But as captain Borg declared after his team had whitewashed their opponents, “It’s not over yet.”
And he is right. The Swede’s counterpart John McEnroe may have a veritable mountain to climb but with points increasing to three for each win for the last four matches on Sunday, Team World could pull it off by inflicting a similar whitewash over the visitors to secure the 13 points required to win the Laver Cup.
An impossible task perhaps in view of the confidence flowing through the Europeans especially as they have pulled the teeth of the all-conquering doubles combination of John Isner and Nick Kyrgios who suffered their first defeat in the competition in four Laver Cup appearances.
They were beaten by Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas who had the honour of bringing the day’s schedule to a close but had to recover after losing three set points in the opening set tie-break before securing a 6-7(8) 6-3 10-4 victory.
“It took time to adjust. Me and Andrey, I think it was the first time we were playing together, but definitely very glad with the quality of tennis we brought on the court the second set and later,” Tsitsipas said. “It was a thrilling match and we just managed to close it in the best possible fashion with a stellar performance in a [match] tiebreak.”
It was a fitting way to end the day. A fighting performance as, like in the opening set, Rublev and Tsitsipas leapt into a 5-1 advantage in the match tie-break but on this occasion, held off their opponents.
“The thing is in my head I was trying to [let] Stefanos just to be the leader on the court… especially in the first set,” Rublev commented on their partnership.
“But then, since the second set I started to play really well. In the [match] tiebreak both of us played unbelievable.”
The day had started with Tsitsipas defeating Kyrgios 6-3 6-4 in what was a lacklustre performance by the Australian who could only briefly show signs of the talent he possesses.
The Aussie held five break points late in the second set and had he just converted one of them, it could well have been the exciting match everyone expected he had never lost to the Greek before.
“Coming in with a negative record, of course you want to change that and get a win, at least, which I’m very happy about,” said Tsitsipas after scoring his first win over the Australian in three attempts.
“It took a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication during that match. It was quite nerve-wracking as well.
“I did find ways to close it with the best possible way.”
The defeat left 95th-ranked Kyrgios in a reflective mood as regards his future. “I’m soaking up every moment out here at this special event … I’m not taking anything for granted to be here again,” he said.
“I’m not saying it’s my last Laver Cup, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around tennis. So it was just great. I took every moment in today.”
Alexander Zverev followed and survived a barrage of 22 aces delivered by Isner in a match which from the outset could only be settled by tiebreaks. And so it proved with the two splitting sets and the German going on to claim the win on the match tie-break, 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 10-5, declaring later: “To be honest, I played a pretty good match,”
To complete the whitewash as far as the singles were concerned, the world number two and US Open champion, Daniil Medvedev made very light work of Denis Shapovalov, cruising past the Canadian 6-4 6-0.
“Honestly I played unbelievable, especially the second set,” a very satisfied Medvedev, a winner of 16 of his past 17 matches, said.
“I didn’t know what to expect, because after US Open I didn’t play for a week and a half, came here, practised as much as I could last three days. So I didn’t hit as many balls, but was surprisingly feeling well.
“(At) first it was not easy, the ball was not going as fast as I wanted, he was playing really good. And then, yeah, just couldn’t miss a ball anymore. I’m really happy about it.”
Can McEnroe’s team stop the European bandwagon? He will have to mount the biggest fightback in the young history of the Laver Cup and it will be up to Reilly Opelka and Dens Shapovalov in the opening doubles against Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev to get the ball rolling on Sunday.
It would see an impossible mission with Team Europe requiring just one win from Sunday’s four match schedule.
Team Europe first
Andrey Rublev & Alexander Zverev vs Reilly Opelka & Denis Shapovalov.
Zverev vs Felix Auger Aliassime
Daniil Medvedev vs Diego Schwartzman
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs John Isner