It was a Saturday night to savour for Team Europe as the Novak Djokovic-led Europeans built themselves a commanding lead of 8 points to 4 ahead of day three on Sunday where each match is worth three points and the teams race to thirteen points.
The results mean that Team World needs three wins from the four matches on Sunday to take home the Laver Cup, while Team Europe only needs two.
Returning to the tennis court for the first time since his Wimbledon victory over Australian Nick Kyrgios, Novak Djokovic brutalised the in-form Frances Tiafoe in the opening match of the night session on day two of the Laver Cup, 6-1, 6-3 in a statement win.
Djokovic looked assured and steady from the get-go and was seemingly unfazed by his second lengthy stint away from the tour this season as he won 89% of points behind his first serve and generated seven break point opportunities, capitalising on four in the tussle barely lasting an hour.
At a change of ends early in the first set, long-time rival and now-retired teammate Roger Federer offered Djokovic compliments on how comfortable the Serbian looked with his groundstrokes despite his lack of competitive match play of late.
“Such control. It’s great to see after so many months!”
Frances Tiafoe too, acknowledged that Djokovic’s level was borderline absurd given the circumstances.
“I think he played better than when he maybe played Wimbledon,” Francis supposed.
“He's pretty locked in. Again, the guy can only play as well as you allow him to. I gave him a lot of looks at seconds, as well. I had low, low first-serve percentage of first serves.
“From the back of the court, I was solid. I threw a lot of stuff at him. He had a lot of answers for me. Yeah, you just tip your hat off to a guy like that, playing that well. No excuses on my side. He was just too good.
“Couple of things I could do a little better, but we saw greatness again today.”
The win, crucially, put Team Europe two points clear of Team World at 6-4 as Djokovic returned to the court for the doubles with Matteo Berrettini against Alex de Minaur and Laver Cup doubles specialist Jack Sock for Team World.
Once again, Team World captain John McEnroe had to ask his players to come back from a deficit to even the ledger and keep his team's hopes of a maiden Laver Cup triumph alive.
However, Team World was unable to claw back a two-point deficit for the third time this tournament as Djokovic and Berrettini outclassed Team World’s pairing of Jack Sock and Alex de Minaur 7-5, 6-2 as Djokovic maintained the rage from his singles demolition.
The European team had Team World under pressure and on the back foot from the get-go after breaking early and racing to a 4-1 lead in the first set. Despite a brief Team World resurgence from 2-5 to 5-all, Team Europe’s pair looked dominant from start to finish winning an extra 22 points with 15 fewer unforced errors.
Speaking post-match, Jack Sock agreed with his American counterpart that Djokovic played out of his skin in light of this two and half month's lay-off.
“Clearly there was no rust, as everyone saw”, Sock noted.
“I thought we were all pretty impressed with his serving in singles and doubles. Seems like he was getting maybe a lot more free points. Holding, you know, easier.
“Probably for his standards, I feel like that's been a thing he's probably worked on a lot in his career. Seems like he's coming faster, hitting his spots great.
“Yeah, one thing with doubles, felt like we were kind of, the way he was returning, singles and doubles, and obviously the way they hit the ball from the ground in their unusual one-up, one-back tactics, felt under pressure on our serve.
“Felt like if we didn't hold it was going to be tough. Matteo serves huge. Novak was hitting his spots great and they were backing it up with some great play.”
Novak himself also appeared rather pleased with his own performance when speaking to the press post-match.
“You know, I haven't done too many bad things, I must say, on the court today, particularly in singles”, the Serbian confessed.
“Whatever I planned to execute, it worked really well. I'm obviously very glad that I got that one off my back. Obviously after not playing for a few months, you don't know really how you're going to feel on the court.
“It's quite unpredictable. But last three, four days of practice sessions here, I have been hitting the ball very well. I like the conditions. I like the court. Suitable to my game.”
“So I feel like I started off well. When you start these kind of matches very well, you know, I had I think the perfect first-serve percentage in the first three service games, you know, a lot of easy points there, and then that obviously allowed me to kind of swing with more confidence on his service games.”
Djokovic also revealed that despite the fact he and Berrettini appeared as though they’d been playing together for years, the pair barely had time to work up a game-plan.
“…after singles we had 10 minutes really. The actual conversation started to happen when I was in the toilet,” Djokovic explained with a cheeky smile.
“He was like jumping around trying to warm up. I was trying to get some food or shower and it was, like, where do you play?
“It happened very quickly.
“Again, last night we went to sleep, didn't have a chance. He was focusing on his singles; I was focusing on my singles.
“But we never played together, you know. But the way we played on the court, seemed like we played many, many times before. Hopefully, he's going to give me this pleasure to play with him again.”
With the Saturday night formalities now complete, attention turns to day 3 of the Laver Cup with Team Europe four points clear of Team World.
Berrettini and Murray will take on Jack Sock and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the opening match of the day.
Auger-Aliassime will return to court and take on Djokovic in the singles immediately following the doubles.
That match will be followed by Stefanos Tsitsipas against Frances Tiafoe and, if the Laver Cup remains on the line, the deciding match will be played out between Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz.
One wonders how Team World will pull three wins together out of those four matches and whether, if Team Europe takes the opening doubles, Taylor Fritz will replace Felix should Team Europe be on the brink of victory as Novak Djokovic steps on the court as Fritz looked the better player on day 2 and doesn’t have the doubles prior.