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Heat is on Team World


The pressure is all on Team World going into the final day of Laver Cup 2022.

With Team Europe needing just two wins to retain the trophy, the visitors must win three of the fourth matches to claim a historic first title in the competition.

Team Europe goes into the final day leading 8-4 having picked up three of Saturday’s four matches. But with Sunday’s rubbers counting for three points each, the hosts still need two wins to reach the final 13-point championship tally.

That means Felix Auger-Aliassime will have a massive role to play in the early part of the day. Team World’s captain John McEnroe has given the 22-year-old Canadian the responsibility of  teaming with Jack Sock in the opening match (which starts an hour earlier than Friday and Saturday, at noon London time) against another European scratch doubles pairing of Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray. He then has a quick turnaround to face Novak Djokovic, who looked in impressive form in his singles on Saturday night.

The good news for Auger-Aliassime is that he’s partnering Jack Sock, who has won eight of his 11 Laver Cup doubles rubbers. True, one of the three defeats came on Saturday against Djokovic and Berrettini, a match in which Sock played well below his usual standard. But he is bound to be fired up for the start of the final day, and will be well prepared for the Berrettini-Murray combo which is likely to play a similar way to Berrettini-Djokovic.

If Team World can win the doubles, Auger-Aliassime, who’s the second highest-ranked Team World player behind Taylor Fritz, will go into his singles against Djokovic with a spring in his step. The two played in Rome in May, Djokovic winning 7-5, 7-6, but clay is the Canadian’s weakest surface, and on a low-bouncing hard court Auger-Aliassime will give himself a chance. And it’s always possible that Djokovic will struggle to reproduce the impressive form he showed against Tiafoe in what will be only his second match back after an 11-week break.

Tiafoe features in the third match, facing Stefanos Tsitsipas for the fifth time. The two men have not played this year, and Tiafoe’s impressive run to the US Open semifinals means any of his results older than a few months are probably an unreliable guide. Their head-to-head is level at 2-2, and the last time they played was in Vienna 11 months ago when Tiafoe won in three sets, so it feels a genuine 50:50.

If Laver Cup 2022 all comes down to the final rubber of the weekend, the men with their teams’ fate in their hands will be Casper Ruud and Fritz. Ruud, the new world No 2, is the highest-ranked player on both teams in London, and will count as favorite against the 12th-ranked Fritz. But Fritz looked good in his win against Cameron Norrie, and this will be their first match, so neither man has experience against the other.

While Team Europe appears to be in a strong position to win a fifth Laver Cup, Team World is still in the fight. This is sport and the outcome is never certain: the quality of all the players at Laver Cup 2022 is outstandingly high, and anything can happen. It should be an enthralling final day at the O2 Arena.

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