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Berrettini pads Team Europe’s lead

Matteowins

For the third time in four Laver Cup showdowns, Team Europe is out to a 2-0 advantage on Day 1.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini provided the second point via a 6-7(3) 7-5 10-8 turnaround against Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime at TD Garden. At two hours and 52 minutes, it stands as the longest match in Laver Cup history.

Norway’s Casper Ruud prevailed in the afternoon’s first match, defeating American Reilly Opelka, 6-3 7-6(4).

“I was just fighting. The match was really hard,” said Berrettini, who overcame 36 unforced errors. “Felix was playing really good, not giving me anything, no mistakes, serving really well. I felt a different energy. I’m playing for my team, not just for my myself. It felt great.”

Tennis fans are getting used to seeing these two friends face off. Friday’s clash of Laver Cup newcomers was already their third encounter of 2021, with Berrettini claiming their quarterfinal matchup at Wimbledon, and Auger-Aliassime exacting revenge in the Round of 16 in Cincinnati. The head-to-head now stands at 3-1 in Berrettini’s favor.

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Team World’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in full flight against Berrettini.

Auger-Aliassime, who two weeks ago became the first Canadian men’s singles semifinalist in US Open history, would strike first, breaking for 4-2 in the opening set on a Berrettini forehand error. However, the 21-year-old could not make good on a pair of set points serving at 5-3, as his opponent brought the opener back on serve.

Berrettini would save five more set points serving at 5-6 to send it into a tiebreak. It was there that Auger-Aliassime finally capitalized — on his eighth set point.

With Auger-Aliassime serving to stay in the second at 5-6, 30-40, the Montreal native sent a scoop forehand beyond the baseline to surrender the break and the set.

We would subsequently get our first glimpse of the 10-point tiebreak. His first match point in hand at 9-8 in the so-called Laver Breaker, Berrettini sent a blistering crosscourt forehand past a diving Auger-Aliassime to seal the match.

“It was a great match. They almost played for three hours,” said Team Europe Captain Bjorn Borg.

“You just have to hang in there and do your best. Matteo did that. He won some important points.”

Auger-Aliassime would finished with nine aces and seven doubles faults in the losing effort.

Berrettini, 25, has reached the quarterfinals or better at the last three Grand Slams, including a run to his first major final at Wimbledon, where he became the first Italian Slam finalist since Adriano Panatta in 1976 (Roland Garros).

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