Day Three Preview: Team World on a tightrope
Never before had one side swept all four matches in a single day at the Laver Cup. But that’s just how dominant Team Europe was on Saturday at the TD Garden in Boston.
With event co-founder Roger Federer and his onetime nemesis Andy Roddick watching on from courtside, Bjorn Borg’s contingent stretched their lead to 11-1 and, with each victory accounting for three points here on out, now stand but a win away from their fourth consecutive trophy. LaverCup.com looks ahead at how it could all go down:
Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev will have a chance to close things out on the doubles court on Sunday in Boston. But the first-time duo will face a challenge in the form of Reilly Opelka and Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian Shapovalov teamed with American John Isner on Day 1 to account for Team World’s lone point (def. Zverev/Matteo Berrettini, 4-6 7-6(2) 10-1).
If Rublev flashes the kind of form he showed in Saturday’s nightcap, when he joined teammate Stefanos Tsitsipas for a 6-7(8) 6-3 10-4 dismantling of Isner/Nick Kyrgios, the clinch could come on the quick. Remarkably, it was Rublev’s first foray into doubles. The Russian looked like a seasoned veteran, swatting forehand winners from all corners of the court. However, as Captain Borg cautioned, it ain’t over until it’s over.
“We are on the way, and we always have a great team spirit on Team Europe,” said the Swede. “We are happy, but we’re not there yet.”
Should Opelka/Shapovalov prevail, Zverev would remain on court for an intriguing singles showdown with Team World’s Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian is just 1-3 against Zverev, the gold medalist at the Tokyo Games, though he claimed their most recent encounter in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, 6-4 7-6 3-6 3-6 6-4.
Though FAA came up short on Day 1 against Berrettini, 6-7 7-5 10-8, the 21-year-old, who only weeks ago broke through to his first major semifinal at the US Open, showed moments of brilliance. Even Captain McEnroe was moved by the young gun’s effort, calling it “one of the best matches, bar none, that I have ever seen played” in four years of Laver Cup action.
If Team Europe still hasn’t secured its margin of victory by then, the score would stand at 11-7 and an in-form Daniil Medvedev would take the court against Argentine Diego Schwartzman, against whom the World No. 2 is a lopsided 6-0.
The reigning US Open champ says he didn’t pick up a racquet for more than a week after winning his first major singles title, instead kicking back on the beaches of Miami. But the layoff sure didn’t affect his game on Day 2 at TD Garden, where he muscled his way past Shapovalov in straight sets, 6-4 6-0.
“It was the first match on this court for me,” said the 25-year-old Russian. “In practice, I was playing pretty good, which I was surprised by, because usually when I don’t pick up a racquet for days I lose it really fast. But the confidence, winning a Grand Slam, helps. I think that’s what kept me going.”
If the Laver Cup is still hanging in the balance, Tsitsipas and Isner would meet in the decider, though Medvedev is confident his side — six players all ranked inside the Top 10 — will get it done, in 2021 (and beyond).
“We are all so young,” he noted. “I think that’s great, because if we talk about the Laver Cup, we can be there for next 10 years if we remain the same ranking. If I’m going to play it again, no matter how many times, I will always want Team Europe to win.”