Tsitsipas and Rublev on top of the World
Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have combined to complete a clean sweep for Team Europe on Day 2 of the Laver Cup in Boston, backing up their singles triumphs to deny John Isner and Nick Kyrgios.
The scratch Russian-Greek pairing cast aside the letdown of being denied three set points in the first-set tie-break to notch a 6-7(8), 6-3, 10-4 victory and hand Bjorn Borg’s team a commanding 11-1 lead heading into the final day’s play.
For the second time on Saturday, Kyrgios and Tsitsipas stood toe to toe with their singles foes but came up empty-handed.
A 9-1 advantage was the biggest lead Team Europe had carried into the final day of Laver Cup but even with the handy buffer captain Bjorn Borg remained ever level-headed.
“It’s not over yet,” Borg deadpanned.
It was the first time a team had won all four matches on a day’s play and the first time either Isner or Kyrgios had lost a doubles match in their four Laver Cup appearances.
“It took time to adjust. Me and Andrey, I think it was the first time we were playing together, but definitely very glad with the quality of tennis we brought on the court the second set and later,” Tsitsipas said. “It was a thrilling match and we just managed to close it in the best possible fashion with a stellar performance in a [match] tiebreak.”
Team World made early inroads when Kyrgios showed great hands with a backhand return down the line to break Rublev for 3-1.
It brought the crowd inside TD Garden alive as the pumped-up Australian sought to inject energy into Team World’s charge.
The Boston faithful upheld their end of the bargain from the stands, but consolidation on court proved elusive as Isner was immediately broken back.
The pairs could not be split as they headed into the first-set tie-break but the men in blue quickly took control, helped in part by a bunch of Team World errors at net.
A string of quick points reduced the arrears from 1-5 to 5-all before Kyrgios and Isner fended off three set points and stole the opening set.
After impressive showings in their respective singles outings, Tsitsipas and Rublev were not about to fade quietly despite having seen the set slip.
A first break of Kyrgios’ serve gave Team Europe a 3-1 lead in the second set and the advantage was sustained as they leveled the match at the one-hour, 35-minute mark.
“The thing is in my head I was trying to [let] Stefanos just to be the leader on the court… especially in the first set,” Rublev said.
“But then, since the second set I started to play really well. In the [match] tiebreak both of us played unbelievable.”
As was the case in the opening tiebreak, Rublev and Tsitsipas leapt to an early 5-1 advantage in the match tiebreak, but there was no repeat comeback on the cards for Team World with the finish line in sight as the Russian planted the foot to bring up seven match points.
A fourth match tiebreak from five contested went Team Europe’s way four points later as the pressure shifted squarely back to Team World for Day 3.
John McEnroe’s lineup was tasked with mounting the biggest fightback in four editions of the Laver Cup.
In the final doubles clash of Laver Cup 2021, it will be up to Reilly Opelka and Denis Shapovalov to keep the hosts’ hopes alive against Rublev and Alexander Zverev first up on Sunday.