Europe wins again: Zverev clinches decider
Alexander Zverev secured the decisive point as Team Europe won the Laver Cup for the third year running with a 13-11 victory over Team World in Geneva.
Three days of competition came down to the final match and it was the German who prevailed 6-4 3-6 10-4 against Canada’s Milos Raonic.
Zverev was quickly engulfed on the black court by a blue wave of teammates rushing to celebrate with him, while 17,000 raucous fans packed into Palexpo revelled in the home side’s success.
Europe, led by Captain Bjorn Borg, has now won all three editions of the Laver Cup – in Prague two years ago, Chicago last year and now Geneva.
“Team World came once again very close but we won the right points and had maybe a little bit of luck,” said Borg.
“I’m very proud of my team, they did a hell of a job. I’m a very happy captain.”
Team World Captain John McEnroe said: “I want to congratulate Team Europe, it was awesome – I’m getting very sick and tired of you.
“I’m so proud to be the captain of this team, they fought their hearts out. World, you guys are awesome.”
A dramatic final day saw Jack Sock and John Isner defeat Roger Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas in doubles, before Taylor Fritz beat Dominic Thiem to give World an 11-7 lead.
However, Federer brought Europe back into contention with a straight-sets win over Isner, setting up a winner-take-all showdown between Zverev and Raonic.
Zverev had the Laver Cup experience, having clinched the trophy for Europe 12 months ago with victory over Kevin Anderson, and he impressed again early on.
A barrage of heavy forehands helped him break for 4-3 and the opening set was wrapped up in 34 minutes.
With the finish line in sight, the nerves began to take hold and a poor service game allowed Raonic back into the contest at 4-2.
The Canadian had to hold his nerve in the face of three break points but eventually served out the set, bringing everything down to a match tiebreaker.
It was the Zverev backhand that dominated as he opened with a cross-court winner and extended his lead to 7-3 with another searing winner off that side.
A third superb backhand brought up match point, and Team World’s challenge was ended when Zverev fired a forehand winner past Raonic before falling backwards onto the black court in celebration.
“I’ve never played in something like that, it was unbelievable,” said Zverev.
“It’s very special, especially playing in front of those guys and them trusting me to play the last singles game. This event is something I hope to play in every single year of my career.”
An emotional Federer then paid tribute to the Swiss crowd.
“Congratulations Team World on an unbelievable fight, I can’t wait for the next one in Boston. For us, so many emotions. It’s been an unbelievable rollercoaster.
“Bjorn, you’re a great captain, and Rocket (Rod Laver), thanks for being here today. It makes it more special.
“It’s been a dream weekend for me to be playing in Switzerland. Thank you for all the noise you’ve made, I’ve loved every moment.”
Game Insight Group analysis
- This would be the least predictable match-up of the day, with Zverev having a razor-thin advantage in the win chances, 54%-46%.
- Zverev came out ready to work. His work rate was an average of 6kJ per shot in the first set, 20% higher than Raonic’s rate. That intensity of movement had to be key to getting multiple break-point chances in the seventh game, making the critical conversion on his second chance. That took Zverev to a 75% chance for the win.
- In the second set, Zverev’s serve percentage won dropped from an intimidating 83% to 64%, which meant it was Raonic’s set for the taking.
- There were still signs in Zverev’s favor. He maintained the higher work rate, 6.5kJ to Raonic’s 5.5kJ work per shot in the second set, and his overall serve percentage was 73% compared to Raonic’s 67%. Those strengths were backed up by his win chances going into the match tiebreaker, which gave him a 65%-35% edge.
The Game Insight Group, formed by Tennis Australia in partnership with Victoria University, is a team of experts revolutionising tennis through science.