Federer helps Team Europe win inaugural Laver Cup in Prague
Like many others I was a little skeptical about the Laver Cup before the event, but along with most of the doubters I was proved very wrong as a thrilling three days of tennis culminated in Europe beating the Rest of the World 15-9 to claim the inaugural cup. Roger more than played his part in Europe’s success, winning three matches out of three including that historic and quite magnificent doubles match alongside Rafael Nadal which will be covered in this recap.
ROGER BEATS QUERREY 6-4 6-2
After an opening day of cheerleading Europe to a 3-1 lead, Roger was in action first up on day two and he put in a great performance to ease past Wimbledon semi finalist Sam Querrey 6-4 6-2 and drive home his team’s advantage. He saved a break point in his opening service game with an ace, but once the initial nerves had settled he quickly hit his stride and a forehand from the American was blazed long to hand Roger a break in the fifth game. There were break points flying around all over the place, with both guys missing opportunities and eventually Roger served out the set comfortably enough to take control of the match. Querrey went long again to hand Roger an early break in the second, and a couple of magnificent passing shots saw the single break become a double as the Fed Express started to run away with things. There was still time for a SABR to set up a winning point, and shortly after that the match was done and dusted as Roger served out to love to get another point on the board for Europe.
ROGER AND RAFA BEAT QUERREY AND SOCK 6-4 1-6 10-5
Later that day came the moment almost everyone had been waiting for, as Roger teamed up with Rafa in the doubles for the very first time and unsurprisingly everyone on Twitter went absolutely crazy for it on a memorable night. Not every day you see two players with 35 grand slam singles titles between them on the same side of the net, and it may never happen again so it was a real treat for everyone and the match itself didn’t disappoint. A break in the seventh game was followed by a lengthy game on the Nadal serve which he eventually held after saving three break points, one courtesy of the biggest mishit drop volley you’ll ever see from Roger. The Maestro served out the opening set, but the momentum changed drastically as the American duo won five games on the spin to race through the second set and take it to a match tiebreak. Fedal raced into an 8-1 lead with some assured play at the net, and although Querrey and Sock won four of the next five points to retain a glimmer of hope they were never really in it and the men who currently hold all four grand slam titles between them wrapped up a famous win.
ROGER BEATS KYRGIOS 4-6 7-6(6) 11-9
Roger had the chance to clinch the Laver Cup for Europe on day three of the competition as he took on Nick Kyrgios, but it looked as though it could be set for a doubles decider as the Australian broke early on with a crunching backhand winner and fended off a host of break points from Roger to seal the opening set despite some flashes of magic from the Australian Open and Wimbledon champion. The tide looked to be turning in the second set as Fed finally converted a break point to go 3-1 up, but some huge hitting from Kyrgios and a horrific shank off a short backhand saw the set go immediately back on serve. From there the set went quickly to a tiebreak, and some superb tennis saw Roger move into a 6-3 lead and earn three set points. All three were saved though, the third thanks to a stunning backhand from Kyrgios, but Roger kept his nerve to get himself a fourth chance to force a match tiebreak and this time he took it with a forehand pass after a perfectly constructed point, much to the delight of the European bench which erupted as the set was secured. Two double faults early in the deciding tiebreak helped gift Kyrgios an 8-5 lead and leave him just two points from the win, but Roger fought back valiantly to level it up and then save a match point before getting one of his own. Kyrgios netted a forehand to give Europe the first Laver Cup, sparking scenes of jubilation from Roger and the rest of the European team especially a super pumped up Nadal who basically acted as chief motivator for both Roger and the crowd throughout the match. Unforgettable scenes.
THOUGHTS ON THE LAVER CUP
Consider me well and truly won over! I didn’t think it would resemble much more than a slightly glorified exhibition, but you could see what it meant to every player on both sides and the level of tennis on show was absolutely brilliant for the most part. As far as first time events go I don’t think they could have asked for any more from it, if you were to write a script for it you could hardly come up with anything better in terms of drama. Will it have the same impact years down the line as it did this time around? I’m not too sure, but if this is anything to go by then I hope it becomes a fixture in the calendar for many more years to come. The Ryder Cup is my favourite tournament on the golf circuit by an absolute mile, and this was right up there in terms of passion and just feeling like a genuinely big occasion which I don’t think many tennis fans were expecting. The Davis Cup has felt like it’s run its race for a while now as the top players prioritise seemingly everything else over it, but with so many of the world’s very best players teaming up and still wanting to win the Laver Cup so badly maybe the sport has found a long-term successor to the ailing international competition. It needs a couple more years like this before it can be truly considered as an important and meaningful part of the calendar, but it very much feels like the foundations have been set for that to happen.
That’s all from what turned out to be an unexpectedly exciting weekend in Prague. The event is being held in Chicago next year, and if this year is anything to go by then I honestly can’t wait. Back to the main tour next up for Roger in Shanghai, see you all then.