Team Europe jumped to a 4-2 lead at Laver Cup London 2022 after Matteo Berrettini overcame Team World’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in the opening singles match on Saturday.
With the value of points for each match increasing to two, the Italian edged out his friend and rival 7-6(11) 4-6 10-7. Berrettini, a Team Europe alternate, took Roger Federer’s place in singles, as the retiring Swiss was unable to compete beyond Friday night’s doubles.
“It’s always a great fight against Felix,” said Berrettini, who also beat Auger-Aliassime when the pair faced off at Laver Cup Boston 12 months ago.
“He’s a helluva player, I had to play my best tennis in the breaker to win.”
Their Boston duel was the longest match in Laver Cup history at two hours, 52 minutes. In that match, Berrettini saved 12 of 13 break points and made the Canadian wait to clinch the first, fending off seven set points.
Twelve months later, Auger-Aliassime was the one who saved most of the set points in Saturday’s first tiebreak — five to be exact— after he held the balance of power heading into the breaker.
But at times his forehand wavered and an off-balance backhand from Auger-Aliassime saw the lone break point of the first set dissipate at 2-1.
Berrettini continually sought guidance from his teammates on how to break down Auger-Aliassime’s service games, assisted from the sidelines by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Ultimately Auger-Aliassime gifted Berrettini the opening set, a forehand drive volley finding the net with the court open. His lone set point resulted at 9-8, but he lost the opportunity with a double fault. “We knew how much the first set meant considering it’s a third-set breaker,” said Auger Aliassime. “So there was a bit of tension there.”
The start of the second set was ominous for Auger-Aliassime as Berrettini threatened to break, coached by Federer ahead of the third set decider. Not wanting to disappoint his idol, Berrettini dictated with his forehand and raced to a 7-2 advantage.
“I feel like I cannot screw up,” Berrettini said when asked how he felt about receiving advice from Federer. “It’s unbelievable.”
The finish in sight, Berrettini temporarily stumbled, though not enough for Auger-Aliassime to come all the way back.
“Few mistakes that I can’t make in order to win in the third set and he played well, served amazing,” said Auger-Aliassime. “Overall good level but disappointing not to get the win for Team World.”