Boston, Sep 24 (EFE).- Europe jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over the rest of the world with a pair of singles victories here Friday afternoon in the Laver Cup, an international team tennis tournament.
The fourth edition of the event kicked off at TD Garden with a clash between Norwegian world No. 10 Casper Ruud and big-serving American Reilly Opelka, the world No. 19.
Ruud leveraged his big edge from the baseline in the early going against an erratic opponent, who only won 29 percent of his second-serve points and had his serve broken on two occasions.
The 2.11-meter (6-foot-11) Opelka was much more effective on serve in the second set and managed to force a tiebreaker, but Ruud’s strong play on the forehand side gave him the slight edge down the stretch in a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) victory.
Swiss legend Roger Federer, a co-creator and main driving force behind this event, watched the first match from the stands and received a huge standing ovation from the crowd.
“I think we’ve all missed him for the past months since Wimbledon, so it’s great to see him back in a tennis arena,” Ruud said of the 20-time Grand Slam champion after his win.
Speaking of his strategy against one of the game’s most potent servers, the Norwegian said he tried to “block the return, try to neutralize his serve. That’s the only thing you can try to do.”
In the second contest, Canadian world No. 11 Felix Auger-Aliassime seemed poised to even the contest after claiming the first set in an hour and 20 minutes over Italian world No. 7 Matteo Berrettini and having a golden opportunity to break serve in the 11th game of the second set.
But the Italian got out of that jam, broke serve in the next game to clinch the second set and then won a seesaw match tiebreaker to win a thrilling 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 10-8 victory in more than two and a half hours.
Auger-Aliassime was the more solid player off the backhand side throughout the high-quality contest, but despite making 36 unforced errors Berrettini rallied from a 7-5 deficit in the match tiebreaker and came up with an outstanding crosscourt backhand passing shot on match point to seal the victory.
“I was just fighting. The match was really hard,” the Italian said afterward. “Felix was playing really good, not giving me anything, no mistakes, serving really well. I felt a different energy. I’m playing for my team, not just for myself. It felt great.”
The captain of Team World, American former great John McEnroe, had high praise for both competitors, saying it was “one of the best matches, bar none” that he has been a part of in Laver Cup. “Absolutely enthralling.”
Two more matches will be played on Friday night – a singles contest between Argentine world No. 15 Diego Schwartzman and Russian world No. 5 Andrey Rublev and a doubles match pitting Berrettini and German world No. 4 Alexander Zverev against American world No. 22 John Isner and Canadian world No. 12 Denis Shapovalov.
Four matches are played per day, with the participants in the final eight matches still to be determined.
The value of wins increases over the course of the competition, with Day 1 victories worth one point, Day 2 wins worth two points and Day 3 victories worth three points.
The first team to 13 points will be the overall winner.
Europe was victorious in the first three editions of the Laver Cup in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Last year’s event was postponed due to the pandemic. EFE