The fifth edition of the Laver Cup at The O2 in London was a rollercoaster ride for players, captains, and spectators – both those fortunate enough to have a seat in the famous arena on the Greenwich Peninsula and the millions tuning in around the world to watch one of the most anticipated events on the sports calendar in 2022.
They weren’t disappointed. Greats of tennis past and present gathered for Roger Federer’s retirement as Team World reached deep to pull off its first victory over four-time winners Team Europe. From Friday to Sunday, the fortunes of both sides ebbed and flowed as teammates put everything on the line to win matches that, on seven out of 11 occasions, ended in nail-biting 10-point Laver Breakers.
Here are 10 sensational moments that shifted momentum, lifted players to greater heights, and enthralled sports fans for three unforgettable days.
The first match between Ruud and Sock on September 23 set the tone for the entire competition. Once again, Sock’s performance belied his No.128 singles ranking against the recent US Open finalist and world No.2. Ruud. The Norwegian made the perfect start, reeling off the opening three games before Sock’s confidence kicked in. Serving to level the second set 5-5, he pushed Ruud back on the baseline with a string of punishing groundstrokes, followed by a deft drop shot and sublime crosscourt pass. Sock’s brazen shot-making rattled Ruud, who continued to escape many tight spots before closing out the match in a nerve-wracking 6-4 5-7 10-7 victory.
With both players making their Laver Cup debut in Friday night’s singles, and Team World desperate to win their first point, Alex de Minaur extracted an early break against hometown favorite Murray in a punishing 22-shot rally. It was the first of many lengthy exchanges between two never-say-die opponents, de Minaur prevailing 5-7 6-3 10-2 in two-and-a-half hours, the first set alone running one hour and 16 minutes. “One of the most special matches that I’ve played,” beamed the top-ranked Australian courtside.
The second pairing of Grand Slam greats and close friends Federer and Nadal looked to be replicating their historic “Fedal” victory at the Laver Cup’s first edition in Prague in 2017. However, putting aside the considerable weight of competing against one of the greatest players of all time in his last professional match, Tiafoe and Sock pushed it into a third-set Laver Breaker as Novak Djokovic provided coaching tips from Team Europe’s bench. Trailing 6-7, Federer lunged to stop an awkward Sock backhand from shooting past him at the net, flicking his volley past Tiafoe in yet another familiar stroke of brilliance from the Swiss maestro.
With the Laver Cup leaderboard sitting at four points-all, reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic took on red-hot American Frances Tiafoe in Saturday night’s singles. Despite not having competed since claiming his 21st major at Wimbledon in July, Djokovic charged through the first set without losing a point on serve. He continued his virtuoso performance into the second set and found perfect touch at the net as he served for a 2-0 lead. Djokovic wrapped up the match 6-1 6-3.
Djokovic and Berrettini added to their Saturday singles wins when they paired in the doubles and, conversing in Italian throughout, gave Team Europe an 8-4 lead, Djokovic showing incredible dexterity at the net to seal the opening set 6-4.
Match 9 was triage time for Team World, as Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock looked to stem the flow of a new blue team pairing. Murray played inspired tennis to wrap up the first set 6-2; however, Auger-Aliassime’s confidence and quick reflexes, together with Sock’s unrivaled experience winning tight Laver Cup doubles encounters, pushed the match into a decider. Team World inched forward for most of the Laver Breaker and won it 10-8 with a touch of Sock magic at the net, at which point the teammates leapt into the air for an unbridled chest bump. Team World was back in the hunt.
Still trailing Team Europe 7-8, Felix Auger-Aliassime captured three more points for Captain John McEnroe’s team with an upset victory over Djokovic in Sunday’s first singles match, which the Canadian later described as “one of the best performances of my career.” Auger-Aliassime eclipsed the 21-Grand Slam singles champion 6-3 7-6(3), drawing on his big serve and forehand to shut down Djokovic and put Team World within one match of winning their first Laver Cup.
There were countless eye-popping moments in the must-win Match 11, with pressure now falling on Greek sensation Tsitsipas, who had an unbeaten track record in Laver Cup singles across three editions. Tsitsipas was sublime in the first set, seizing it 6-1 in 21 minutes. The second set was much closer, with no breaks. At 8-8 in the second set tiebreak, Tsitsipas unleashed a magnificent backhand crosscourt pass to set up his second match point.
Undeterred, Tiafoe could smell blood in the water and, at 11-11 in the second set tiebreaker, he fired a backhand pass down the line for set point.
Rising to the occasion and hunting his first Laver Cup victory in three appearances, Tiafoe broke Tsitsipas 5-4 in the Laver Breaker to consolidate a mini break, whipping up the crowd’s support as he edged closer to victory.