Djokovic Gives Team Europe Breathing Room At Laver Cup

Novak Djokovic (photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, September 25, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

With each victory at the 2022 Laver Cup worth two points on Saturday, during the middle day of the three-day indoor event, Team Europe’s Novak Djokovic made a big splash in his return to the ATP Tour. First, he upended Frances Tiafoe of Team World, 6-1, 6-3, to give his team a 6-4 lead in London.

Later, Djokovic returned to the Centre Court at the O2 Arena and teamed with Italy’s  Matteo Berrettini to gain a valuable two points in doubles with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Team World’s Alex de Minaur of Australia and Jack Sock of the United States to extend Team Europe’s advantage by four points (8-4) heading into the final day of the annual team competition.

The first team to achieve 13 points wins the Laver Cup trophy. On Sunday, each victory is worth three points. Team Europe needs to score five more points – by winning two matches – in the final day of competition to successfully defend its title and win the Laver Cup for the fifth time. The final day begins with a doubles match followed by three singles matches.

The seventh-ranked Djokovic of Serbia, who was competing for the first time since he won his seventh Wimbledon Championships singles title and 21st major overall 11 weeks ago, played with great accuracy and purpose against No. 19 Tiafoe, who was a recent semifinalist at the US Open earlier this month. However, the Serbian put away the American in 73 minutes behind 17 winners to just three unforced errors. He struck nine aces and lost just three points on his first serve while outpointing Tiafoe, 58-34, to earn his 24th tour-level victory of the season. Djokovic dropped just seven points in eight service games, all of them in the second set.

During his on-court interview after his singles victory, Djokovic, suggested he was pleased with his level of play following his Wimbledon success. “I played a pretty decent match; I was seeing the ball well. It was a really emotional day yesterday, and it wasn’t easy to start up the engine today. But I’m very pleased with the way I played,” he said.

Djokovic, who is one major title behind Rafael Nadal‘s 22, also spoke about teammate Roger Federer‘s Friday night farewell. He called it “one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced in my life, for sure. I can speak on my behalf. What got me the emotional was when his children came up, and I saw them tearing up. Sorry Roger, I don’t want to tear you up again but it was a beautiful moment.”

Berrettini wins hard-fought battle over Auger-Aliassime

Earlier, Berrettini, who began the Laver Cup as an alternate for Team Europe, took Federer’s place in his team’s Saturday lineup and it paid off. The World No. 15 from Italy edged past Team World’s Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, 7-6 (11), 4-6, 10-7, in two hours and 15 minutes to give his team a 4-2 lead.

In raising his career head-to-head against Auger-Aliassime to 4-1, it was Berrettini’s second straight Laver Cup victory over the 13th-ranked Canadian.

“It’s always a great fight against Felix,” Berrettini said during a post-match interview. “We played for two hours an 15 minutes and he is a hell of a player. I had to play my best tennis in the [match] tie-break to win. I am really happy because I didn’t win just for me but for the team.”

Berretttini fired nine aces, won 75 percent of his first-serve points and hit 24 winners to 17 unforced errors. Auger-Aliassime countered with 24 winners and made 24 unforced errors. He outpointed Berrettini 82-79.

Fritz keeps Team World’s hopes alive

Then, Team World’s top-ranked player, No. 12 Taylor Fritz of the United States kept his team’s hopes alive after fighting past British No. 1 Cameron Norrie, 6-1, 4-6, 10-8. It was their 10th career meeting and each player has won five times. Norrie was a replacement for Team Europe’s Rafael Nadal, who withdrew earlier Saturday due to personal reasons.

“I think it’s big we’re going in 4-4,” Fritz said after his one-hour and 27-minute victory was complete to wrap up the afternoon session. “I think that’s going to apply more pressure on them, more pressure on Novak to perform and play a good match.

“Everyone’s looking at him to lock in a win and be the guy that takes care of business, gets his wins. Obviously, not a lot of people usually beat Novak but Frances is playing great.”

Fritz hit 24 winners and converted four of eight break points against Norrie. He outpointed the World No. 8 65-57.

Norrie took consolation in that he was selected to be part of the talented Team Europe squad. “I was just honored to be part of this team and I felt like I really deserved to be part of this team, from what I’ve done the last two years,” he said.

“I knew there was a good chance for me to play so I was all in and was going to be practicing in London anyway. So, it was perfect timing. It was great to get that call and make my debut and fight for Team Europe. It’s one of the coolest events I’ve ever been a part of.”

What Rafa said about Roger

During their joint press conference early Saturday morning after losing their doubles match to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, Rafael Nadal summed up his relationship with his Team Europe teammate by saying: “For me [Roger] was always the guy to beat. So, at some point we were probably the biggest rivals; I think always in a very good way.”

Laver celebrates Federer’s career with the Swiss star

Hall of Fame great Rod Laver, the namesake of the Laver Cup, was among the many well-wishers on hand at the O2 Arena Friday to congratulate Roger Federer after he played the final match of his career.

On Saturday, before the start of the second day of this year’s competition, Laver publically shared his congratulations with Federer via social media.

Laver Cup notes

Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Laver Cup Saturday for personal reasons after helping Roger Federer bid farewell to tennis on Friday night. The 22-time major title holder cited personal reasons for withdrawing. He was replaced on Team Europe by Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.

In a conversation with Spanish media following a joint press conference with Federer, as reported by, Nadal said: “I’m not good, I’m not good. The truth is these have been difficult weeks in that sense. Few, very few hours of sleep, a bit of stress in general, slightly more difficult situations than usual at home.

“As a result, well, I’ve had to deal with all that, which is a different pressure to the one you’re used to in your professional life. But, well, luckily everything is good and we are much more calm. And in that sense, I’ve been able to come here, which for me was the most important thing.”

• Among the many accomplishments of Roger Federer during his storied career a few that stand out are: 369 Grand Slam wins (most all-time); 310 weeks at No. 1 (his 237 consecutive weeks are an ATP record); $130.6 million in prize money (second all-time); 103 titles won (second all-time), and 1,251 match wins (second all-time).

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