GENEVA, September 22, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
When the 2019 Laver Cup came down to the 12th and last match Sunday evening in Geneva, it seemed appropriate that the final fixture would be decided by a match tiebreak. After all, throughout three days of highly dramatic, tension-filled competition that was full of camaraderie displayed by both teams, seven previous matches had been resolved by the innovative and fast first-to-10 match tiebreak format.
In the final match of the 2019 Laver Cup competition, Team Europe’s Alexander Zverev took on Milos Raonic of Team World. Just like a year ago, when Zverev secured the 2018 Laver Cup for Team Europe with a decisive win over Kevin Anderson, he came up big against the stoic Raonic from Canada and won 6-4, 3-6, 10-4. It enabled Team Europe to secure a conclusive 13th point and gave them a hard-fought 13-11 victory over Team World.
With two match wins Sunday, first by Swiss maestro Roger Federer on his home soil and, then, by the German Zverev, Team Europe lifted its third consecutive Laver Cup, presented to the team by Hall of Fame great Rod Laver, for whom the trophy and competition is named after.
The 17,000-strong Palexpo crowd, which brought much electricity to the event all weekend, saluted the champions with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. During the trophy presentation, Federer showed his respect for the Geneva fans and expressed what it meant to him to win the Laver Cup in both his home country and with Laver watching from court side.
Filled with emotion, Federer saluted both teams, too. “Congratulations Team World on an unbelievable fight, I can’t wait for the next one in Boston. For us, so many emotions. It’s been an unbelievable rollercoaster,” he said.
“Bjorn, you’re a great captain, and Rocket (Rod Laver), thanks for being here today. It makes it more special.
“It’s been a dream weekend for me to be playing in Switzerland. Thank you for all the noise you’ve made, I’ve loved every moment.”
After securing championship point, Zverev was immediately mobbed on the jet black court by his Team Europe teammates. He was briefly lifted in the air by Fabio Fognini. Soon, the entire team locked arms in a rugby-like scrum and danced giddily in a circle, perhaps relieved that it was all over.
Team Europe, which has been captained by Bjorn Borg since the Laver Cup’s inception three years ago, has now won all three editions of the annual competition, which began in Prague two years ago, continued last year in Chicago, and this year came to Geneva. Next, the Laver Cup will be played September 25-27, 2020, in Boston at the TD Garden, home of the NBA Boston Celtics and the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
During the trophy presentation Borg expressed his joy in winning the Laver Cup, again. “Team World came once again very close but we won the right points and had maybe a little bit of luck,” he said. “I’m very proud of my team, they did a hell of a job. I’m a very happy captain.”
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) September 22, 2019
Team World Captain John McEnroe, flanked by his team, said: “I want to congratulate Team Europe, it was awesome – I’m getting very sick and tired of you.
“I’m so proud to be the captain of this team, they fought their hearts out. World, you guys are awesome.”
Earlier Sunday, after Rafael Nadal withdrew from competition due to a wrist injury, John Isner and Jack Sock gave Team World its first lead of the 2019 Laver Cup with a 5-7, 6-4, 10-8 doubles win over Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas, which was worth three points and put them ahead 8-7. Next, Taylor Fritz rallied for a 7-5, 6-7 (3), 10-5 win over Dominic Thiem that pushed his team further ahead, 11-7. Both were inserted into their team’s respective lineups as replacements for Nadal and Nick Kyrgios, who was a late scratch due to a shoulder injury.
Then, Federer kept Europe in contention when he beat Isner, 6-4, 7-6 (3), to set up a winner-take-all singles showdown between Zverev and Raonic. Both of them lost their openers on Saturday to Isner and Nadal, respectively.
After splitting the first two sets, Zverev came alive in the match tiebreak and quickly jumped ahead 5-2. Then, he won five of the final seven points capped by a solid forehand winner on championship point.
Zverev withstood 15 service aces from the hard-serving Raonic by winning consistently on his own serve. He won 80 percent of his first-serve points (33 of 41) and was broken just once. With little margin for error during the one hour and 28 minute match, Zverev outpointed Raonic 63-59.
Afterward, Zverev was asked how he handled the pressure and kept his head focused. He said he realized that by winning it could turn his season around and get him his confidence back. “I played an unbelievable tie-breaker and I’m super happy and super thankful to Roger and Rafa and the rest of the team. Without them on the bench, I wouldn’t have done it.
“I’ve never played in something like that, it was unbelievable.”
Then, Zverev gave props to his Team World opponents. He said, “You were one or two points away from winning it all. Credit to all of you. You deserved to win. Hopefully, many of you will play Laver Cup many more times to get a chance to play against us. It was an unbelievable weekend.”
Finally, Zverev was asked where winning the Laver Cup ranked in his tennis life. He didn’t hesitate when he said, “It’s very special, especially playing in front of these guys (Roger and Rafa) and then trusting me to play in the last singles match. It’s an unbelievable feeling. This event is something I hope to play every single year of my career.”