Inside Team World: Digging deep for a point
They might have spent much of Day 1 on the back foot but Team World departed the United Center in positive spirits after a Friday evening session that saw them connect with the home fans and reignite their hopes.
Jack Sock and Kevin Anderson’s stunning doubles win over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic pegged Team Europe’s lead back to 3-1 in the race to 13 points.
“To rally and play some good tennis tonight with Kev and get us on the board definitely feels good, but I’m more happy for the team than myself, for sure,” said Sock.
“When you’re playing for other guys and other tennis players you’re with year round, [defeat] stings a lot. You know, I’m almost more gut wrenched in some of these losses.”
Coping with defeat had been something of a theme for Team World earlier on Day 1, and Sock was hit hard by a narrow loss to Kyle Edmund in the second singles match of the day.
The American came close to completing a comeback against the Briton only to go down in the match tiebreaker.
“I’m very disappointed in myself for not pulling that one out,” said the American.
“I wasn’t surprised with some of the results I have had this year that I was playing on Friday, when it was maybe only worth one point.
“Nothing really helps ever other than your girlfriend being nice and being positive with you.”
Schwartzman wins new fans in Chicago
Team World’s doubles success had been set up by Diego Schwartzman’s heroic efforts in defeat against David Goffin, which saw a new star born in the eyes of Chicago sports fans.
With the Argentine producing some sensational tennis as he battled back valiantly, a chant of “Diego! Diego!” rang around the United Center.
“It was a great atmosphere out there. It was crazy,” he said.
“My teammates did a really, really good job outside the court, and the people was doing a great job as well, trying to make noise every point. So it was a great atmosphere.”
Schwartzman did, however, reveal that the raucous scenes might have contributed indirectly to his failure to convert two match points.
“I was trying to find my family one time, and I can’t,” he added. “In the final point when I had the match points, I find them, but it was not good because I lost four points in a row after that.”
Wild celebrations lift Team World
It was not only the day one scoreline that had echoes of Prague 12 months ago, as once again the courtside antics of Team World caught the eye as they willed on their teammates.
While captain John McEnroe was regularly up out of his chair, urging both his players and the crowd to greater efforts, he could hardly match Nick Kyrgios for enthusiasm.
The Australian could barely stay outside of the lines in the evening session, rushing forward to encourage first Schwartzman, then Sock and Anderson.
“He’s a crazy guy,” said Schwartzman. “Everyone knows. He was doing a good job every single point.
“For me, was really good because I was trying to look at him every point and every important moment. He helped me to stay in the match and almost win.”
It was the red bench which got the United Center crowd – and the great Rod Laver himself – up on their feet in a Mexican Wave, and the decibel level rarely dipped from that moment on.
“It’s just because we are really passionate about it and we are all enjoying ourselves here and trying to egg each other on,” added Sock.
“I honestly think that helped us last year get close. I mean, it hasn’t been the ideal start, but the celebrations will be coming.”