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Day 1 Preview: Who’s got the edge?

McEnroeBorg assesses the field across four matches on Day 1 of the competition.
Day Session

Match 1

No. 10 Casper Ruud | Team Europe vs. No. 19 Reilly Opelka | Team World

It’s been some year for Casper Ruud. In May, the Norwegian downed Denis Shapovalov in the Geneva final. In July, he became first player since 2011 to reel off three ATP titles in as many weeks (Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbuhel). And the 22-year-old arrived in Boston at a career-high No. 10 in the world rankings. Ruud will carry a 2-0 head-to-head advantage into his Laver Cup opener against American Reilly Opelka, which includes a three-set triumph over the 7-foot power-server this summer in Cincinnati. “He had a great summer,” said Team Europe Captain Bjorn Borg. “Even if he played really well last year, this year he has been playing extremely well. I’m happy to have him on the team.” Opelka, a thinking man’s player and self-described ‘servebot’ who topped No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in reaching the ATP Masters 1000 Toronto final, possesses one of the game’s most potent serves and could make life difficult for his opponent in this battle of first-time Laver Cuppers.

Match 2

No. 7 Matteo Berrettini | Team Europe vs. No. 11 Felix Auger-Aliassime | Team World

Canada’s Felix Auger-Alisassime reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and might have gone further had it not been for Matteo Berrettini, a player World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has dubbed ‘The Hammer of Tennis.’ The Italian, 25, now leads their career head-to-head 2-1, and has the stuff to be a Top-10 regular for years to come. After breaking through to his first major semifinal at the US Open and getting revenge against Berrettini in Cincinnati, the 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime’s confidence is at an all-time high. “We know each other very well,” said Berrettini. “We’re good friends. But now it’s Team Europe against Team World. I’m looking forward to bringing the point home for my team.” Auger-Aliassime countered, “He has one of the great serves in the game right now; huge forehand also. But I feel like the last time I played him I was able to neutralize his serve, start off the rallies pretty well, and then I kind of have it on my terms. That’s what I will need to do tomorrow.”

Night Session

Match 3

No. 5 Andrey Rublev | Team Europe vs. No. 15 Diego Schwartzman | Team World

Andrey Rublev prevailed in his only previous encounter with Diego Schwartzman back in 2017, a five-setter in the opening round at Roland Garros. This one could go the distance again, a battle of tireless groundstrokers who make their living along the baseline. The Russian Rublev has been one of the ATP’s most consistent performers in 2021, but Schwartzman, a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros in June, likes his chances on the TD Garden court. “I think the conditions are good for me,” said the 29-year-old Argentine. “The court is slow this year. I felt great these few practices so far. Rublev has big shots. He’s playing very fast, but under these conditions I have a few opportunities to keep rolling on the points.”

Match 4

Alexander Zverev/Matteo Berrettini | Team Europe vs. John Isner/Denis Shapovalov | Team World

John Isner has amassed 14 points in three Laver Cup outings, a versatile performer who isn’t afraid to get out onto the doubles court. The American will pair up with Canadian Denis Shapovalov on Night 1, facing the tandem of Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini. Isner, 36, says the Laver Cup setting is unlike any other. “I just like the team atmosphere. I think all of us do,” he said. “I played four years of college tennis. I played a lot of Davis Cup. It’s special when you play for more than just yourself. Everyone would agree with that assessment. To get to play in atmospheres like this; in Prague, Chicago, Geneva, where the buildings were just absolutely electric. It makes you play really well, gives you a lot of adrenaline. It’s just something you can’t quite replicate every other day out on tour. We’re going to cherish that.”


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