Photo: Gyles Dias
While golf fans were up early this morning to watch the 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup from Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, tennis fans were eagerly waiting for the start of their own international event – the fourth installment of the Laver Cup.
The 2021 Laver Cup is being held in Boston, Massachusetts at TD Garden, the home of the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics. Fittingly, the opening match featured American Reilly Opelka on home soil against Casper Ruud of Norway. Ruud, the World No. 10, took the match in straight sets to give Team Europe the early 1-0 tournament lead.
Up next, Félix Auger-Aliassime and his good friend Matteo Berrettini faced off for the all-important second point. Despite having the crowd behind him, Auger-Aliassime wasn’t able to secure the victory against Berrettini as Team Europe marched their way to a 2-0 lead.
Auger-Aliassime and Berrettini, both heavy-hitting players, cruised through their first couple of service games. However, things got shaky in the middle of the set as unforced errors started to pile up on both sides giving either player the chance to earn the break advantage
The Canadian struck first, but the lead didn’t last long as Berrettini fended off two set points in the ninth and eventually broke back.
A tiebreak was needed to decide the first set, however, it took a chaotic, action-packed 12th game to get there.
Off to an early 30-0 lead on Berrettini’s serve, Auger-Aliassime chased down a cross-court forehand from the Italian and miraculously returned it in play to give Team World three break point opportunities. The insane shot brought the Boston crowd and the Team World bench out of their chairs and onto their feet. Team World alternate Jack Sock was loving it.
But, the Italian didn’t let the crowd get to him, continued to push the pace, and managed to save five break/set points in the 12th game alone.
The rollercoaster first set eventually went to Team World after a dominant performance from Auger-Aliassime in the tiebreak.
It was a far less dramatic second set as the early break points were easily saved by Auger-Aliassime and Berrettini.
Things opened up in the 11th game and Auger-Aliassime had a few chances at breaking the Italian. But again, Team Europe’s Berrettini stood tall when it mattered most and managed to hold. He then made sure to make his first set point matter as he broke Auger-Aliassime in the next game to win the second set 7-5.
The third set, a tiebreak to 10 points, was highly entertaining. There were seven mini-breaks, great rallies, and spectacular shot-making. Berrettini just squeezed by Auger-Aliassime with a 10-8 tiebreak victory in officially the longest match in Laver Cup history.
Clutch doubles performances by Shapovalov and Isner
Denis Shapovalov and teammate John Isner paired up for the first doubles match of the Laver Cup. They faced Berrettini and 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev as they hoped to get Team World on the board.
Heading into the match, Team World had fallen behind 0-3 to Team Europe in the international event. A loss in doubles and a four-point deficit would not have boded well for John and Patrick McEnroe’s team. Sensationally, the Canadian-American duo delivered the goods and defeated Berrettini and Zverev 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-1.
Despite dropping the first set, Team World looked like the more poised of the two teams throughout the match. Understandably, Shapovalov was the highest-ranked doubles player on the court and his teammate Isner just recently captured a doubles title in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Shapovalov and Isner kept 65 per cent of first serves in play and won 72 per cent of those points, including eight aces. They won 100 per cent of service points in the third set tiebreaker as they soared past Team Europe in a crushing 10-1 tiebreak triumph.
Team Europe now leads the Laver Cup 3-1.
For more information about the Laver Cup, click here.