Swiss legend Roger Federer teamed up with Alexander Zverev to make his first appearance as a doubles player in front of his home crowd in Geneva and ninety-seven minutes later served out to win another point for Team Europe in the longest ever doubles match in Laver Cup history.
Having taken the first set 6-3 off opponents Denis Shapovalov and Jack Sock, making his second appearance of the day, and then breaking Sock in the opening game of the second set, it looked as though Team Europe were on their way to an easy victory.
The American-Canadian World pair missed all of their first nine break point opportunities, but made no mistake at the tenth time of asking and broke Federer to make it 4-4 in the second set.
In the crucial tenth game with the score 4-5, Zverev was soon 0-40 down on his serve but managed to get it back to deuce, and Shapovalov and Sock then squandered six set points, making it 5-5.
Predictably the momentum had swung back to the Europeans and a double fault from Shapovalov handed them a 6-5 lead.
Federer made no mistake in front of the packed Palexpo crowd and served out for the match and gave Team Europe a 3-1 overnight lead.
“It was a great atmosphere. There’s nothing like playing at home. Sascha carried me in the second set and it was great fun out there,” Federer said in the on-court interview”
Adding “My back has recovered (since his US Open defeat) and I’m ready to go for more tomorrow.”
Zverev then told the delighted crowd “I had two great coaches, one on the court and one (Rafa Nadal) on the sidelines”
“I could just shut off my brain and do whatever they told me to do.”
Team Europe 2 Team World 1
Making his Laver Cup debut Stefanos Tsitsipas, the most successful Greek player ever, chalked up his first win as a pro over Taylor Fritz 6-2,1-6,10-7, to give Team Europe a 2-1 lead in Match 3.
In a see-saw match, quick starting Tsitsipas rattled through the first set 6-2 in twenty-four minutes.
Fritz responded in similar fashion and quickly took the second 6-1, setting up the ten point Match tie-breaker for the pair of twenty-one year olds.
Tsitsipas overcame a wardrobe malfunction when his shoelace broke at 2-2 in the tie-break, but surprisingly decided to play on, racing to a 5-2 lead .
Fritz then fought back winning four points on the trot.
However with the score at 7-7, he served up his first double fault of the match and Tsitisipas needed no further invitation to claim a point for Team Europe by firing down two big serves. to win the set 10-7.
He said in his on-court interview:-
”I didn’t want to stop the match. That was quite tough because I was scared I was going to lose my shoe during the point,”
“The momentum changed in the tie-break. I found my rhythm again and had a clear mind on the court.”
Team Europe 1 Team World 1
Journeyman Jack Sock dusted off his rusty singles skills to pull past Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-6(3) to bring World level 1-1 with Europe on Friday, Day 1 of the Laver Cup in Geneva.
Two-time champion Europe, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal leading the all-star lineup of Top 10 regulars, had been expected to deal out a 2-0 scoreline with concluding doubles to come in the evening.
But the 210th-ranked Sock, who won his last ATP-level singles match last November, somehow rose to the occasion to upset Italy’s reigning Monte Carlo champion in 89 minutes, saving all six break points he faced.
Sock, bothered for several seasons by injury, had all but given up on the singles game but had kept his tennis hopes alive with doubles success, including Wimbledon and US Open titles last season.
The out-matched World side is comprised of three Americans, two Canadians and colourful Aussie NIck Kyrgios.
The top-ranked -player is No. 20 John Isner.
Two-time champion Europe are backing up Federer and Nadal with opening rubber winner Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas as well as debutant Fognini.
As he trailed late in the second set, Fognini was encouraged to stay the course and not get negative by both Federer and Nadal during a changeover.
But the Italian was unable to flip the switch as Sock managed his improbable win.
Sock scored the upset in 89 minutes, breaking twice.
The victory was the first in Laver history on opening day for the World selection and ended a run of 12 successive Day 1 victories for Europe.
After the match World Captain John McEnroe said “We should have won the first match, so we needed to bounce back. Jack played awesome, he took it to Fabio. He’s a great ball striker. We feel great right now.”
Sock was surprised by his own form:
“It’s been a long road back, I’m sure everybody here is surprised I won a singles match”
“I had thumb surgery in February and was out for almost six months. For some reason Laver Cup seems to bring the best tennis out of everyone here.
“I’ve played great singles before, so I know it’s in me, but it’s an amazing feeling to bring it out today playing for these guys, not just myself.”
Europe 1 The World 0
Dominic Thiem had to work to hold off a charged-up opponent and put Europe into early 1-0 command as the third edition of the Laver Cup began on Friday in Geneva.
Austria’s two-time Roland Garros finalist eventually managed a 6-4, 5-7, 13-11 victory over Denis Shapovalov of the World side.
Europe, led by Roger Federer and a powerful supporting cast headed by Rafael Nadal, are clear favourites in the competition which they have won since its 2017 inception.
But the crowd at Geneva’s sold-out Palaexpo got its money’s worth in an opening battle lasting for more than one and three-quarter hours.
Thiem knew he came through a close call in the opening rubber. “I guess we continued where the Laver Cup last year stopped.
“It’s a really special thing with the tiebreak in the third, it creates lots of close moments and match points on either side.
“It’s also a little bit of luck at the end.”
Europe have now won seven straight opening-day matches in the hybrid competition dreamed up by Federer to honour his tennis idol Rod Laver, who was on hand as per usual for the competition.
The first nation to 13 points by Sunday’s final chapter of the three-day event takes the trophy after a weekend of singles and doubles matches on the unique black court which characterises the tournament,
Europe captain Bjorn Borg – John McEnroe has coached the World since the start two years ago – was pleased with his side’s quick blast out of the blocks.
The Swedish skipper is resting Nadal on opening day and using Federer later in doubles.
“I can’t imagine this is only the first match – we started like this, with many more to come,” Borg said.
“I knew before it’s going to be a great competition.,
“Dominic played well and did a great effort to win this match.”
Fifth-ranked Thiem won the opening set with one break of serve but was pegged by as Canada’s Shapovalov claimed the second to set up the tiebreak deciding third..
Shapo moved to within a point of victory with a 9-7 lead only to come unstuck as Thiem gathered his resources to save a pair of match points and level at nine apiece with a backhand winner..
Thiem missed on a match-winner while Shapovalov also failed to close out when he got a third chance.
But Thiem finally escaped with the win as Shapovalov drove a forehand into the net.