Laver Cup’s much-anticipated inaugural edition between Europe and World was played from September 22 to 24 at Prague, Europe. The captains of Europe and World were Bjorn Borg and John Mcenroe respectively
The tournament will be played every year, alternating between Europe and USA. In an Olympics year it will not be held, respecting the Commitment for tennis to remain as an Olympic sport.
In its interesting format day 1 matches would have 1 point each, day 2 matches would have 2 points each and day 3 matches would have 3 points each. Therefore in all probability strategy would suggest that the Captains would hold back the topmost players for day 2 and 3.
Not unsurprisingly therefore, neither Rafa nor Federer were seen on day 1. The 1st match saw Cilic take on Tiafoe, Del Potro’s last minute replacement. Cilic won in straight sets 7-6 7-6 with Tiafoe showing flashes of breathtaking shotmaking but in vain.
Europe 1 World O
Next Thiem took on Isner and won the 1st set 7-6, Isner took the second at 7-6. As per the tournament rules instead of a 3rd set, there would be a match tie-break with the 1st player to reach 10 points winning the match. Isner raced to a 4 nil lead but Thiem came back strongly to win the match 7-6 6-7 (10-7).
Europe 2 World 0
Match 3 saw Zverev defeat Shapovalov 7-6 7-6. Europe 3 World Nil
The final match of the day saw Rafa on court but in doubles. Rafa-Berdych lost the 1st set 3-6 to Kyrgios-Sock but fought back to take the second set to with a 9-7 win in the second set tiebreak. Briefly it seemed as if Europe will win their 4th match but Sock-Kyrgios held their nerves to win the match tiebreak 10-7.
Day 1 ended with Europe 3 points to World 1.
Day 2 ( Each match 2 points)
Federer said he was tired cheerleading for 8 hours on day 1. However it did not reflect in his tennis. Federer comfortably outplayed Sam Querrey 6-4 6-2. He then said he wanted to quickly shower and get back to cheerleading Rafa whose match was next.
Europe 5 World 1
Match 2 saw Rafa take the 1st set comfortably at 6-3 but lose the next at 3-6 before he rallied deep into his inexhaustible resources of energy and fighting nature to win the match tiebreak 11-9.
Europe 7 World 1.
In match 3 between hometown favorite Berdych and Kyrgios, Berdych took an early break and comfortably served out the set. Kyrgios however served well to take the 2nd set to a tiebreaker which he won. Kyrgios however won the match tiebreak 10-6 and give World 2 much needed points. Europe 7 World 3
The final match of day 2 was definitely the most awaited match of the entire tournament. Federer and Rafa were playing doubles for the 1st time against Sock and Querrey. In the 1st set Roger’s lack of match doubles play was evident but Rafa upped his game including serves, volleys and solid play from the back of the court to take the set 6-4. However bad play by both legends saw them lose the second set 1-6. The match tiebreak however saw them win all the relevant points to comfortably win it 10-5.
Europe 9 World 3. The highlight of the match was Rafa’s defy volleys and the wonderful personal chemistry between the two legends
Therefore at the end of day 2 Europe were just 2 wins away from winning the Laver Cup 2017. With Rafa and Fed both slated to play singles it seemed easy.
With day 3 matches having 3 points each a seemingly unassailable lead of 9-3 for Europe suddenly became 9-6 as Isner and Sock played inspired doubles to win against Berdych and Cilic 7-6, 7-6. However Zverev restored Europe’s lead with a comfortable 6-4, 6-4 win over Querrey and Europe were 12-6 ahead.
Rafa was expected to win easily over Isner, but the giant American played inspired tennis to upset Rafa 7-5, 7-6 ( 7-1).
Now it all came to the last match. If Federer would win it then Europe would be champions but if Nick would win it then it would go into a deciding doubles.
Nick started strongly by winning the 1st set 6-4, however Federer levelled the match by winning the second set 7-6 (8-6). In the match tiebreak Kyrgios was ahead and it looked like he would win but somehow an inspired Federer pulled off some winners to take the tiebreak 11-9 and hence Europe lifted the Laver Cup. Rafa’s animated support for Federer was something which will remain in memory for a long time.
Overall Laver Cup was a huge success especially with the points format retaining interest right till the last match. The only thing i did not like about the tournament was the dull grey colour of the courts. Otherwise the format was very exciting and potentially with lot of discussion about fading interest for Davis Cup, maybe this format is something Davis Cup Organisers may consider looking at.