Team Europe Widens Its Lead At The Laver Cup

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Back to back to back victories by World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, World No. 4 Alexander Zverev and World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev gave Team Europe a commanding lead over Team World in the fourth edition of the Laver Cup in Boston, Mass., on Saturday. Add to it, a doubles victory at the end of Day Two made it a clean sweep. Any way you look at it, Team Europe has taken a commanding 11-1 lead over Team World.

On Sunday, Team Europe needs to win just one more match, where the point values for a victory increase to three, to clinch their fourth straight Laver Cup title.

First, Tsitsipas scored a 6-3, 6-4 win over Nick Kyrgios, saving all six break points he faced during their 87-minute tussle. He finished off Kyrgios with a forehand passing shot. It was that kind of day for both the Greek and for Team Europe.

Then, Zverev followed it with a close win over Team World’s John Isner, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (6), 10-5, during the afternoon session to give Team Europe a 7-1 advantage. It was Zverev’s seventh win over Isner in their career nine meetings.

Later, the evening session was highlighted by a showdown between Medvedev, who at age 25 is the oldest player on Team Europe (not counting 40-year-old alternate Feliciano Lopez) and World No. 12 Denis Shapovalov that never really materialized. Instead, it was dominated by the reigning US Open champion, who won nine straight games and beat the Canadian, 6-4, 6-0, in 75 minutes to increase Team Europe’s lead over Team World to 9-1.

Day Two ended with a spirited doubles tilt that Team Europe’s Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev won 6-7 (8), 6-3, 10-4 over Isner and Kyrgios.

Tsitsipas’ win that began the afternoon stopped whatever momentum Team World gained by winning the final match Friday evening in doubles in back of Isner and Shapovalov against Zverev and Matteo Berrettini.

“I was really pumped,” Tsitsipas said during his on-court interview after beating Kyrgios. “First of all, I had the team behind me pumping me up. Their energy is important.

“Coming in with a negative record, of course you want to change that, get a win at least, which I’m very happy with today. It took a lot of hard work and it took a lot of dedication during that match. So, I pretty pleased with the outcome of it.”

After beating Isner, Zverev said in his on-court interview: “I think in this format, playing against John is probably one of the toughest opponents there can be. He’s the best server of all-time. He was hitting the ball exteremely hard, exteremely well today.”

Indeed, Isner fired 22 aces to just one double fault, while Zverev countered with 13 aces of his own and did not hit any double faults. “And to be honest,” Zverev added, “I played a pretty good match. Even the second set that I lost, I don’t think I did many things wrong. That just shows that the match was very high level.”

Following his straight-set victory in his Laver Cup debut Saturday evening, Medvedev gave this self-assessment: “I played unbelievably, especially the second set,” he said during his on-court interview. “I didn’t know what to expect because after the US Open, I didn’t play for a week and a half. Came here, practiced as much as I could the past three days, so I didn’t hit many balls, but was surprisingly feeling well.

“I wanted to show that also today. First [set] was not easy, the ball was not going as fast as I wanted. He was playing really good. And then, I just couldn’t miss a ball anymore. I’m really happy about [that].”

Being on the receiving end of 128-mile-per-hour first serves from Medvedev, there wasn’t much that the 22-year-old Shapovalov – outpointed 63-39 and outmanned, too – could do but crack a smile by the end of the match as he shook the Russian’s hand at the net.

“I was a bit stressed coming into the match because actually every singles guy [on my team] won,” Medvedev said. “So, I was like, ‘If I lose, that’s not so good.’ I’m happy I managed to win.”

Moselle Open: Hurkacz reaches third final of the season at Metz

Top seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland advanced to his third ATP tour final of the season with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 101st-ranked German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk in the semifinal found of the ATP 250 Moselle Open in Metz, France, Saturday afternoon.

Hurkacz, who earlier this season won titles at the Delray Beach Open and the Miami Open, both on outdoor hard courts, took care of business patiently and efficiently in an hour and 35 minutes inside Les Arenes de Metz. The win prevented Gojowczyk, who won the Moselle Open tile in 2017, from a chance at duplicating his best ATP Tour-level finish.

In Sunday’s final, Hurkacz will oppose No. 2 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, who beat No. 3 seed Gaël Monfils of France, 7-5, 7-6 (8), to reach his third ATP Tour final this year. Both of his previous finals appearances this year resulted in title victories, first at Marbella, Spain on clay in April and later in Hamburg, Germany, also on clay, in July.

Hurkacz will do double duty as he’s also into the doubles final after he and Jan Zielinski of Poland upset top seeds Henri Kontinen of Finland and Ben McLachlan of Japan, 6-4, 6-4, in the semifinal round Saturday evening. Hurkacz and Zielinski will face Hugo Nys of Monaco and Arthur Rinderknech of France in Sunday’s final.

“I think I played a couple of really good points in important moments. So, that was good from my side,” Hurkacz said during his on-court interview that followed his semifinal singles win. “The atmosphere was amazing today. Thanks to the group.”

Hurkacz pointed to a group of brightly green-clad fans, many equipped with brass musical instruments, who were in the upper deck cheering him on. “They were really amazing and made it great and the fans enjoyed it,” he said smiling.

On serve through the opening nine games of the match, Hurkacz won the first set after he broke Gojowczyk in the 10th game. Then, the German promptly broke the World No. 13 in his first service game of the second set and maintained the advantange until Hurkacz broke back to level the set at 4-all. After he held serve for a 5-4 lead, Gojowczyk recovered from down 0-30 to hold. Then, a game later, Gojowczyk saved a couple of match points with a pair of ad-court service winners and forced a tie break with his 11th ace of the match.

However, during the tie break, Hurkacz dominated it from the outset. He jumped out to a 5-1 lead after breaking Gojowczyk three straight times. Finally, Hurkacz closed out the victory on his fourth match point opportunity when Gojowczyk double faulted.

“Peter played a really great match,” Hurkacz said. “He was super tough to play against. So, I am proud of myself that I managed my emotions and played a good tie-breaker. I was trying to keep holding several to stay in the second set and ended up taking the set in the tie-breaker.”

Meanwhile, Carreño Busta recovered from a 1-4 deficit in the opening set and saved four set points against Monfils during the second-set tie break to win in an hour and 49 minutes. The victory leveled his career head-to-head with the Frenchman at 3-all. It was the first semifinal appearance for Monfils since Dubai last year.

“It is a long time since we have played with this kind of atmosphere,” Carreño Busta said during his on-court interview after beating the 2009 Metz champion. “It was amazing. In the beginning it was really tough. Then, I started to play better and made the rallies longer from the baseline and I think it was key to try and push a little bit.”