Laver Cup | Europe lead the World 3-1 going in to Day 2

The focus firmly on entertainment, the opening ceremony at Prague’s O2 Arena was a spectacular digital show on the first day of of the Laver Cup and, perhaps, the star of the show was Björn Borg’s hair – a victim of static and standing up on end.

He laughed and tried to pat it down but the silver locks persisted to dance upwards, searching for some hair gel, no doubt.

“For me, it’s a new experience to be a captain in a team,” Borg confessed. “They asked me several times in Sweden to be the Davis Cup captain but I said no. When they asked me to be a captain for Team Europe, I said yes immediately. It’s an honour.”

The night session opened with an introduction of the two teams, led onto court by their captains, Borg (with his hair now mercifully under control) and John McEnroe.

With Team Europe already 2-0 up, the schedule pitched up two exciting and talented newcomers, Europe’s Alexander Zverev, 20, against Denis Shapovalov, 18, representing Team World in the third singles of Day 1.

We’ve only played twice, [and] maybe in 10 or 12 years people will look back and say we had a good rivalry, but it’s too early to say that now. Because of our age we’ve only played each other a couple of times. It’s also important not just to talk about me and Denis – there’s Dominic [Thiem] and Nick [Kyrgios] as well, and they could become rivals in time. Alexander Zverev

Already the Laver Cup is trailblazing after the two opening matches were hugely competitive and only decided on tiebreaks.

A capacity stadium and frenzied team support on the sidelines has set the atmosphere for a great weekend of unrivalled tennis.

It is celebrating Rod Laver’s extraordinary career in spectacular fashion, with excitement, tension and marvellous competition, the brainchild of the current tennis royalty, Roger Federer.

If it comes down to team support, then Team World is leading the cheering stakes while Team Europe players, thus far, are slightly more reserved.

Normally on opposite sides of the net, the teams are combining rivalries into team spirit by representing their respective continents, and the mix of players represents both the old guard alongside youth.

If Shapovalov was daunted to have McEnroe sitting in his corner as his captain, he wasn’t showing it, nor did Zverev fret over Borg’s presence on his bench.

At the net stood another legend, Stefan Edberg, to conduct the coin toss, a further experience to ponder on for them both. This is a show of greatness.

Jon McEnroe gives Denis Shapovalov some advice

Shapovalov is a rare talent, left-handed and precocious, and he has come up through the ranks quickly to No 51, only having been on the pro tour for a few months.

The lanky German is ranked No 4, the clear favourite and he held two break points in the third game, the first of which the Canadian saved with an ace and the second with a deep almost un-returnable serve.

Crisis over, he hit his way out of trouble and held for 2-1.

Both had outstanding junior careers and both are tipped for the top.

At 4-3, Nick Kyrgios joined captain McEnroe on the bench to impart some words of wisdom or encouragement, a sight to behold since the former has had to withstand a lot of criticism from the latter on tour.

Interesting role reversals, this Laver Cup.

On court, the players dug deep.

At 4-5, Zverev served a double, and Shapovalov capitalised with a spectacular high backhand smash to go up 15-30 but sent his next forehand wide, then retrieved the situation to garner a break point but failed to convert.

Europe held firm to level, a real chance lost for Team World.

Undaunted, Shapovalov held to love with two aces to move ahead, and Zverev followed all the way to the tiebreak.

An opening double fault put Shapovalov at an instant disadvantage and Zverev charged ahead, securing the first set, 7-3.

The young Canadian re-set and fought on, going for everything and applying pressure whenever he could.

On opposite sides ofthe court again!

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They locked horns until 4-5 when Shapovalov found himself staring down four match points and somehow he survived, scrapping at his best to thwart the German.

He had to defend again at 5-6, putting his lefty forehand to good use and slicing his serve wide to force a return error to level.

It was the sixth tiebreak of the day and Shapovalov scored first, breaking the German for the mini-break.

It was short-lived, as Zverev broke back but the Canadian moved up 3-1 as the German netted a forehand.

Alexander Zverev got the better of his Canadian rival

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Back on serve, they locked horns as Europe went up 5-4 but Shapovalov, after levelling at 5-all, double-faulted to offer up a match point and Zverev aced him to win 7-6(3) 7-5(5).

After 109 minutes of enthralling and high-quality tennis, Zverev gave Europe a clean 3-0 sweep of a lead in the Laver Cup.

“It continued the tiebreak streak!” he said on court afterwards.

“We’ve only played twice, [and] maybe in 10 or 12 years people will look back and say we had a good rivalry, but it’s too early to say that now.

“Because of our age we’ve only played each other a couple of times. It’s also important not just to talk about me and Denis – there’s Dominic [Thiem] and Nick [Kyrgios] as well, and they could become rivals in time.”

Shapovalov said: “His serve is unbelievably difficult to read, and he’s so much more solid from the baseline.

“There are lots of things I have to improve on, but one of the main ones is to be able to control points from the baseline the way Sascha can.”

Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock earn Team World's first point

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Organisers have not stinted on the technology here in Prague, the new ideas and concepts.

In the style stakes alone, this event scores big points: Dramatic black court with a sea of space at each end; line judges merging the team colours of red and blue in purple shirts with, of course, black, and the ball kids fading into the shadows in deep grey kit.

Only the brilliant figures of the players pierce the monochrome setting in sharp relief.

Even the non-playing team members on their black leather sofas cannot escape every move, every gesture caught on multiple cameras behind the colour-coded lighting.

In front of the sofas, Borg and McEnroe are playing out their own drama of contrasts – McEnroe chewing, brow furrowed, hands clasped in his lap, while Borg leans back, legs crossed, arm draped along the player bench, still as ice.

After the break, the doubles was played, with Rafael Nadal teaming up with Berdych for Europe, facing Kyrgios and his friend, Jack Sock.

Team World broke the mould, taking the first set by 6 games to 3, but order was restored in the second, which went in a tiebreak to the Europeans.

In the deciding match tiebreak it was nip and tuck until Sock blasted a return off Berdych’s serve that landed just inside the baseline for the mini break at 4-5.

At 6-5, Sock narrowly missed the sideline with his backhand to hand back the advantage.

They were still level at 7-all when Berdych struck long and Kyrgios served for the match at 8-7.

He served an ace that was challenged and deemed out, but he held his nerve and earned Team World a match point which he converted with an ace to secure their first point, 6-3 6-6(7) [10-7].

Ending Day 1, Europe lead 3-1 and on Day 2 match wins score the double the points.



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