De Minaur strikes back for the World
Alex de Minaur gave Team World their first point at Laver Cup London by outlasting Andy Murray in a night session like few others in the event’s history.
De Minaur’s defeated the former No.1 5-7 6-3 10-7 after Team World fell in the opening two matches on Friday afternoon.
“We had a couple of unfortunate matches,” said de Minaur. “I always knew my match was going to be a big one to try to get a point and get us on track.
“Everyone in this team is going to leave it all out there and that’s the most important thing.”
At the pair’s only other encounter in Zhuhai three years ago, the Australian dug out a three-set victory in three hours.
Their battle at The O2 began with a first set that clocked one hour, 16 minutes.
Extended rallies featured throughout, with one exchange in the opening set sure to linger in Laver Cup history.
Such was de Minaur’s attacking intent that Murray was forced to offer up numerous defensive lobs.
Murray — whose last appearance at The O2 saw the Scot beat Novak Djokovic in 2016 to clinch the year-end No.1 ranking — usually takes top billing when playing at home.
This time, though, his tussle with the exciting de Minaur proved to be the appetizer ahead of Roger Federer’s last professional match.
“It’s surreal, just playing a match with everything that’s going on,” said Murray, before reeling off several legendary names who looked on, including both captains. “Having Bjorn Borg on the side of the court, John McEnroe. Stefan Edberg was in the crowd, all of the teams as well, having them supporting you, talking during matches as well, it was incredible. One of the most special matches that I’ve played.”
As if anyone needed reminding, de Minaur spoke of his fondness for team competitions on Thursday. He has won five straight Davis Cup tussles and can add Laver Cup to the list of team victories by downing his fellow competition debutant.
For the third straight match Friday, one side broke for a 2-0 lead, but this time it wasn’t Team Europe.
There were chuckles when chair umpire Aurelie Tourte had to tell Murray that one of his shoelaces — which used to hold his wedding ring — was untied.
He tied the shoelaces and set about taking the momentum and evening the score 3-3.
A de Minaur double fault handed Murray a break chance at 4-3 — only for his foe to rip three consecutive aces.
“Let’s go Andy, let’s go” shouted Murray, although de Minaur held onto his lead when, in the 12th game, he earned the first five game points prior to Murray capitalizing on his second set point via a double fault.
If Murray struck a psychological blow by claiming such a draining set, de Minaur — 13 years younger — appeared fresher in the second. A break for 2-1 confirmed his early superiority.
Murray hung in, although rued two foiled break points at 3-4.
Team Europe had won six of the last seven Laver Breakers — including when Casper Ruud edged Jack Sock to begin play on Friday — so the odds might have swung back in Murray’s favor.
De Minaur, however, never trailed.
A tense conclusion saw Murray pull to 7-8, only to see his second-serve return stray long.
A fine de Minaur first serve helped to seal a meaningful victory for Team World — which has lost all four previous Laver Cups. De Minaur’s victory was only the second time in Laver Cup history that Team World had won a singles match on Day 1. At Laver Cup Geneva 2019, Sock stunned top 10 Team Europe player Fabio Fognini.
“Probably the kind of nerves and just the sense of having my back against the wall, it wasn’t easy by any means,” said de Minaur. “We’re in a battle, so it was a big win for me, that’s for sure.”