BOSTON (AP) — The pandemic-delayed fourth edition of the Laver Cup — and first without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic participating — began Friday with Team Europe taking a 3-1 lead over Team World thanks to victories in singles from Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev.
Italy's Berrettini, the runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, saved 12 of 13 break points and came back to edge Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime in a match tiebreaker 6-7 (3), 7-5, 10-8.
That came after Norway's Ruud broke American Reilly Opelka in the third game and again to end the opening set along the way to a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory on a hard court at the arena used by the NBA’s Celtics and NHL’s Bruins.
During the night session, Andrey Rublev of Russia edged Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in another match tiebreaker 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 to put Team Europe ahead 3-0, before John Isner of the U.S. and Denis Shapovalov of Canada put Team World on the board by defeating Alexander Zverev of Germany and Berrettini 4-6, 7-6 (2), 10-1 in Friday's doubles match.
A team must reach 13 points to win the three-day competition. Each match victory is worth one point on Friday, two on Saturday and three on Sunday.
Opelka, whose game is built on his big serve and forehand, said afterward the setup “suits (Ruud) better than me” and described it as “slow and dead.”
“It’s the slowest conditions I’ve ever played in, the combo of the court and the ball,” Opelka said.
Ruud acknowledged that worked to his advantage, as did what he said were bits of sand on the court that made it slippery.
“It’s fairly slow,” Ruud said about the court, “and his serve, I felt, wasn’t that fast today as it maybe usually is, because of the surface and also the balls, the way they get after three or four games.”
Team Europe has won all three Laver Cups so far, helped each time by Federer — whose management company is the driving force behind the exhibition, which does not award ATP ranking points — and either Nadal or Djokovic. The members of the Big Three currently share the men’s record with 20 Grand Slam titles apiece.
Djokovic is coming off a run to the final of the U.S. Open; Federer and Nadal are done for the season because of injuries.
Federer was seated courtside Friday.
Boston was supposed to host the Laver Cup last year, but the event was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
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