Team Europe steamrolls Denis Shapovalov, Team World at Laver Cup
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov couldn’t stop a Team Europe tidal wave, losing 6-7(3), 6-7(5) to Alexander Zverev as Team World fell behind 3-1 after the first day of play at the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague, Czech Republic.
It was the second time in just over a month the No. 4-ranked Zverev has defeated the 18-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., resident. Zverev, 20, from Germany, ended Shapovalov’s sparkling run in the semifinals at the Rogers Cup in August.
Playing on a sleek black hardcourt at O2 Arena, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Austria’s Dominic Thiem and Zverev got the European team off to an excellent start, winning all three of their matches.
That set Rafael Nadal and hometown Czech Tomas Berdych up for a clean sweep with the crowd behind them, but the pair started slowly and were eventually beaten 6-3 6-7(7) 1-0 (10-7) with the encounter decided in a 10-point match tie break.
“The first set they were better than us, but later it was close. We started to return more and be more aggressive,” Nadal said.
“I am just happy the way the day went… Happy to go to bed 3-1.”
Marin Cilic beat American Frances Tiafoe 7-6 7-6 in the first match and Thiem swatted aside a challenge from another American John Isner 6-7(15) 7-6(2) 1-0(10-7).
On the first day were on Nadal.
The Spaniard headlines the event with his long-time rival and world number two Roger Federer, who helped conceive the competition with his sports management company Team8.
That raises the chance of the two greats playing together over the weekend with lineups announced each day.
Team Europe are overwhelming favourites against Team World, which has no player inside the top 15 and no grand slam titles, compared to a combined 36 for the European side.
The teams are captained by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, whose own rivalry starting in the 1970s featured a contrast in temperament and style that made their matches the kind of must-watch events that Laver Cup organisers hope to showcase.
As in their storied on-court battles in their playing days, McEnroe painted an animated figure courtside as he frequently sprung from his chair to rally his players while Borg remained mostly seated.
His calm demeanour, however, belied his nerves.
“I was more nervous today than when I was playing because, I mean, of course when you play you have control,” Borg said.
The tournament, which will rotate between Europe and the rest of the world each year, features three singles and one doubles match each day. A win was worth one point on Friday and will count for two on Saturday and three on Sunday.
An extra doubles match will be played if the teams are tied on points after all matches are over.