The Laver Cup: 2018 Tournament Review
Join Tennishead for a refresher on the second ever Laver Cup in Chicago, USA, in 2018.
2018 Laver Cup Day One: Debutants shine for Team Europe
The USA played host to the second ‘Ryder Cup of tennis’, as ‘The Windy City’ welcomed Team Europe and Team World to the United Center from 21-23 September, 2018.
The opening match was between Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the world number 7, and the American Frances Tiafoe, world number 40. Tiafoe had opened proceedings the previous year also, at the inaugural Laver Cup, against Marin Cilic of Croatia.
History repeated itself for Tiafoe, as Dimitrov proved too much to handle for the 20-year-old, seeing him off 6-1, 6-4 to see Team Europe claim the first points of the event.
Next up, another European debutant came up against another returning Team World representative, as Kyle Edmund of Great Britain took on Jack Sock of the USA.
The two men had met twice on the ATP tour before, with honours even at a win each heading into this tie. After a tight opening set, Edmund was able to claim the single break required to clinch it at 4-5 on the Sock serve.
ALSO READ: The Laver Cup: 2017 Tournament Review
The second set followed a similarly close pattern before Sock also broke late in the set, at 5-5, before serving out for 7-5 to force a deciding match tiebreak.
The young Brit took advantage, going 9-4 up for match point, taking victory at the third time of asking. 2-0 to Team Europe.
The last singles tie of day one was a showdown between Belgium’s David Goffin and Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, world number 11 and 14 respectively. The Belgian led their head-to-head 3-1 going into the encounter, but Schwartzman was ready for a fight.
Despite the Argentine landing an early break, Goffin responded from 4-3 down to claim a double break, swing momentum, and take the first set 6-4. In the second Schwartzman did not flinch, pushing to a double break cushion before surrendering one but holding on to take it 6-4. Another deciding tiebreak.
The ensuing breaker saw 11 mini-breaks out of 20 points played, with both players having match points. Schwartzman secured the first two at 9-7 and 9-8, but could not convert, before Goffin turned the tide and won out 11-9. 3-0 Team Europe.
Time for doubles, and the first match-up of the 2018 Laver Cup presented 14-time Slam champion Novak Djokovic and 20-time Slam champion Roger Federer in a team, up against recent Wimbledon 2018 finalist Kevin Anderson alongside world number 17 Jack Sock.
Neither team budged on serve in the opening set, with not a single break point chance as a tiebreak was needed to separate them. At 5-6 on the Team World serve, Federer and Djokovic took the set at the first opportunity.
The second set was also, close, with just one break of serve proving the difference as Anderson and Sock went 3-1 up and held that lead to take the set 6-3, bringing up a deciding tiebreak.
On the way to the first match point there was just a single mini-break. As Team Europe faltered, they were serving to stay in the match at 6-9, with Team World taking that invitation and securing the victory. They were on the scoreboard, 3-1 Europe.
2018 Laver Cup Day Two: Honours even on the middle day
Coming into the second day, Alexander Zverev took on John Isner, with Zverev having won four of five previous meetings between the two.
But there was a twist in the script from the off, as Isner claimed the first set 6-3 to gain the upper hand after the German was broken in his first service game.
Neither man’s serve was threatened in the second set, bringing up a must-win tiebreak for Zverev. Isner took his opponent to the brink, setting up a match point at 5-6 on the Zverev serve, but the 21-year-old steeled his nerves to hit a sublime passing backhand winner to stay in the match.
ALSO READ: The Laver Cup: 2019 Tournament Review
After the change of ends, a straightforward overhead volley from Isner fell into the net to hand Zverev a set point opportunity. Another brilliant passing backhand won the tiebreak for Zverev, bringing the match to a deciding breaker.
From there Isner could not hold off the German, as he claimed the tiebreak and the match 10-7. Team Europe now led 5-1.
In a repeat of the final match of last year’s event, Roger Federer took on Nick Kyrgios. What had proved an immense battle in 2017 was far less of a contest this time around.
Kyrgios never threatened the Federer serve as the Swiss never faced a break point, while the 20-time Slam champion claimed one and two breaks in the first and second sets respectively to secure a 6-3, 6-2 win and bring Team Europe’s lead to 7-1 at the tournament.
The next tie saw a rematch of the 2018 Wimbledon final, as Novak Djokovic did battle with Kevin Anderson. After reaching 6-6 without a single break, Anderson edged out the world number three to go one set up.
At 5-5 in the second, Djokovic was able to carve out a break before levelling the tie at a set apiece. In the match tiebreak, a mini-break advantage saw Anderson to 8-5 up. A rocket return from the South African set up match points. After Djokovic held off one, a forehand into the net at 9-6 handed the win to Anderson, the world number nine avenging his loss at the All England Club and closing the tournament scoreline gap to 7-3 for Team Europe.
Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin teamed up for the closing doubles match of the day, while Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock rekindled their 2017 partnership.
That experience made all the difference for the Team World duo, as they ran away as winners in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, to end the day with a close tournament score of 7-5 in favour of Team Europe.
2018 Laver Cup Day Three: Reliable returners seal the deal
For the last doubles showdown of the 2018 Laver Cup, Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev took on all-American pair John Isner and Jack Sock in what would prove to be a scintillating contest.
Following a break of the Sock serve, the European pair claimed the first set 6-4. A second set without breaks brought up a tiebreak that the Americans had to win to stay in the match. They remained steady, closing out the breaker 7-2.
A tight decider brought up two match points for Federer and Zverev. The first was saved when Isner hit an exceptional forehand past Zverev at the net, before a quick one-two on the Isner serve levelled it at 9-9.
The towering American hit an out wide after the change of ends, setting up their own match point. A crosscourt rally between Zverev and Sock made for a tense exchange, with a Zverev backhand sailing long, seeing Team World win it, Sock and Isner falling to the court in disbelief.
Team World now held a Laver Cup lead for the first time ever, up 8-7 after being 7-1 down. Could they hold on to take the title from the defending champions?
Federer and Isner faced off immediately afterwards in singles, as the Swiss had a score to settle. Federer had only lost to Isner twice before in their previous eight meetings, but both those losses had come on indoor courts.
And so the American took the lead in the match, claiming it in a tiebreak 7-5. Another close set saw the two men to a second tiebreak. At 3-3, Federer hit a drive volley from deep in the court that contacted the net cord, taking the ball out. Mini-break for Isner. An unforced error into the net from the American put it back on serve, but an errant forehand from Federer in the next point set Isner up with two match points.
Federer saved the first with a brilliant ace out wide, one more chance for Isner. A shanked Federer return just made it over the net, before the 37-year-old was able to face down a towering Isner at the net to secure the point, 6-6.
Isner lost his serve again off a tricky half-volley into the net, giving Federer a set point chance. Another ace levelled the tie for the great champion, bringing the match to a deciding breaker.
With the score at 6-8 on the Isner serve, the American hit a backhand into the net to set up match points for Federer. Isner saved the first off a brilliant approach and volley that caught the sideline. But Federer would not be denied, securing victory with a pinpoint forehand winner, putting Team Europe back in the lead, 10-8.
Zverev was next on against Kevin Anderson, and as with Federer it started tough for the German, going down a set to the South African, 7-3 in a tiebreak. After levelling the match with a 7-5 second set, it came down to another match tiebreak. If Zverev won, Team Europe would retain the Laver Cup.
Nine mini-breaks between the two men followed, culminating in Zverev sitting at 9-7 on two Laver Cup points. The backhand return sailed long from Anderson. It was done, Team Europe had won it again, 13-8.
Feature image: Ben Solomon/Laver Cup
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