After a night that so few people will ever forget, Day 2 at the Laver Cup in London began as so many have in the past; with another Team Europe win.
Fans and players alike barely had a few hours of sleep to try and come to terms with this post-Roger era of men’s tennis, yet the masses had packed the O2 to support both Team Europe and Team World as the opposing sides entered day 2 at two-all on the ledger.
However, while yesterday marked an unprecedently successful start to any Laver Cup for Team World, Team Europe began as they did yesterday with Matteo Berrettini delivering a near carbon copy of his 2021 Laver Cup win over good friend Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(11), 4-6, 10-7 in front of an adoring crowd.
The match started with the pair trading blows from the baseline and each player looking to assert their dominance by playing first-strike tennis. However, despite their best efforts, neither player could break down the other's serve as the first set went to a tiebreaker.
Berrettini had the better of the chances before having to defend two set points himself as the score progressed from tie-breaker to super tiebreaker status.
As has been custom at this year’s event, Team Europe then took the first set (7-6(11)) before Team World had to scrap and fight to earn the right for a super tiebreaker to decide the day’s right rubber.
The Canadian sought to pepper the Italian’s weaker wing, but the slow courts made it harder for Auger-Aliassime to break down his opponent's backhand as the additional time allowed Berrettini to camp himself in the backhand corner and continuously run around his backhand in search of his thunderous forehand
Rising to the occasion and enjoying support from the likes of Federer, Djokovic, and Murray on the bench, Berrettini played a near flawless match tie-breaker to down his Canadian foe 10-7 and put Team Europe two points ahead at 4-2.
In his press conference after the match, Matteo Berrettini shared his appreciation for being involved in last night’s historic scenes while also having to manage the fact he was first on the court on day 2.
“Having the chances to, you know, to live what we lived yesterday is something that's going to be stuck in my heart and my brain forever,” Berrettini shared.
“I'm not lying when I say that I'm here because of him. Like he was really the one that I was looking up to. He was the one that I was supporting, cheering for him. I was getting upset, I remember crying after he lost the finals in 2009 in Australia because he was crying.”
“So for me, living these moments is something really that means everything. So it was tough, tough to sleep. I didn't get a lot of sleep (smiling).
“But at the same time, I was really pumped to step in and give my best. I'm really happy obviously for the win, but I feel like this weekend we're kind of celebrating something that is bigger than Laver Cup, than tennis. It's just him.”
Meanwhile, Team World’s Felix Auger-Aliassime was philosophical about his opportunities against Berrettini while expressing his disappointment at again falling short of earning his first Laver Cup points.
“Well, yeah, it was a good match overall. I think I was serving great in the first set. Didn't really give him any opportunities to get a look or to break me,” said Auger-Aliassime.
“I had myself one or two looks and then just a bit tentative in the tiebreak in a few moments, hesitating. I felt like it was on both sides. It was a bit tight. We knew how much that first set meant, considering it's a third-set breaker, so it was a bit of tension there.”
“But then second set I played great. Was dominating really the whole second set. Yeah, a few mistakes that I can't make in order to win in the third set, and he played well, and served amazing. Yeah, overall a good level. Of course, disappointing to not get the win for Team World and to get my first win in Laver Cup.”
Following the early match were Taylor Fritz and Cameron Norrie who fell short in his Laver Cup debut after being substituted into the competition following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal for personal reasons – which itself highlights how important it was for him that he be there to support Roger at his professional farewell.
Nadal has since returned home to Mallorca to be with his family.
Fritz came out of the gates red hot and raced to a 6-1 lead in 21 minutes winning 25 points to Norrie’s 13 which included three breaks of the Norrie serve.
That’d be the end of the one-way traffic for Fritz as Norrie soon found his feet (and the American’s serve began to waiver) in the second set eventually breaking Fritz at 4-all to force yet another match tiebreaker.
Having received a big pep talk from their teammates the tiebreaker was heart-in-mouth tennis. Fritz was ahead and serving at 5-2 before he dropped both his service points only to then re-claiming his two mini-breaks but by outlasting Norrie and pushing him side to side from the back of the court. At 8-4 to Fritz it looked like his hiccups were behind him until Norrie levelled up and caused a scare as Fritz shanked a forehand at 8-7 to let Norrie in at 8-all.
Not to be rattled, Fritz merely required two more big forehands to end the match 6-1, 4-6, 10-8 for Team World and to square up the Laver Cup at four-all.
After the match, Fritz noted that he felt more comfortable in the current conditions at the O2 than at last week’s Davis Cup, even if he considers both to be “slow”.
“It’s tough to say. The balls are heavier, it’s a bit of a slower ball,” said Fritz post-win.
“It feels like conditions are a bit on the slower side but to me, they don’t feel too slow coming from Davis Cup. I think that any player that has come from Davis Cup will tell you [the conditions] are not too slow here because Davis Cup, those were the actual slowest conditions I ever played in my career.
“So, yeah, I feel fine. It feels good to be able to finish points again if I hit a good shot. They’re definitely really low bouncing. But I don’t mind it too much.”
The American also highlighted that all the pressure tonight would be on Novak Djokovic and Team Europe as the Laver Cup once again will come down to a few key moments on the deciding Sunday.
“I think it’s big that we are going in at four-four. It’ll apply a lot more pressure on them. A lot more pressure on Novak to play a good match because everyone is looking at him to lock in a win and take care of business”
“Obviously not a lot of people usually beat Novak but Frances is playing great and I think keeping it at four-all it's going to apply a lot more pressure than if it was at 6-2”.
Facing Djokovic tonight in the singles will be US Open semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe. While Jack Sock and Alex De Minaur will take on Djokovic and Italian Matteo Berrettini in the doubles.
Should both sides be on six points going into Sunday, each team will be required to win three matches (each worth three points) to take home the Laver Cup. If, after twelve matches, the two sides cannot be split. A deciding doubles match will be played as the tie-breaking thirteenth rubber.