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Rublev rolls: Team Europe up 3-0

Rublev hero

Russian Andrey Rublev upped Team Europe’s advantage to 3-0 on Friday night at the Laver Cup, denying an inspired challenge from Argentine Diego Schwartzman to win, 4-6 6-3 11-9, at the TD Garden in Boston.

It marked only their second career head-to-head, and first since 2017, when Schwartzman prevailed in an opening-round slugfest at Roland Garros, 0-6 6-4 6-2 6-7 9-7. This one would feature some stellar ball-striking, too.

“When you have a third-set super tiebreak, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Rublev, who overcame 31 unforced errors on the night. “Today, we were a bit luckier. It was so close. Diego was leading the tiebreak, but I found a way to win. It happens. This is tennis. This is sport. Someone has to win, someone has to lose.”

There were five service breaks through the opening nine games of the match, with Schwartzman finally able to serve out the 48-minute set.

Two straight double faults would haunt the 15th-ranked Schwartzman in the second, as he quickly fell behind, 3-0. Like his teammate Matteo Berrettini, who earlier topped Felix Auger-Alisassime, 6-7(3) 7-5 10-8, Rublev would force a 10-point tiebreak to decide the proceedings.

The nail-biting ‘Laver Breaker’ would see Rublev fall behind, 6-2, before reeling off nine of the next 12 points to prevail, punctuated by a forehand volley winner. He has now come back to win after dropping the first set on seven occasions in 2021.

After a few practice sessions, the 29-year-old Schwartzman said he liked the conditions at TD Garden, that its slow court would favor him in prolonged exchanges with the fifth-ranked Rublev. But it was the World No. 5 Rublev — the first Russian to take the court in Laver Cup competition — who made the most of his opportunity.

 

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