Following in the footsteps of Prague and Chicago, Team Europe and Team World wasted no time bringing the drama to Geneva in the opening session of this year’s Laver Cup.
Jack Sock became the first player from Team World to win an opening day Laver Cup singles match on Friday, defeating Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-6(3) in front of a packed crowd at Palexpo. The American, who missed six months of the season with a broken thumb, saved all six break points he faced to claim his first singles victory of 2019 and draw his side level with Team Europe at 1-1.
“I’m sure everyone here is surprised I won a singles match. It has been a while,” said Sock. “I had thumb surgery in February and I was out for six months with it. There have been few tournaments and few matches this year, but for some reason the Laver Cup seems to bring the best out of everyone here.”
Sock needed just 89 minutes to earn his sixth win in nine Laver Cup encounters. The 26-year-old, who owns a combined 18 tour-level trophies in singles and doubles, fired 10 forehand winners and won 11 of 18 net points in an attacking display against the reigning Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters titlist. After a clinical serving performance in the second set, Sock claimed victory on his first match point at 6/3 in the tie-break as Fognini failed to control his service return.
“I came out with a lot of energy, stuck to my game,” said Sock. “I’ve played great singles before, so I know it is in me. It is an amazing feeling to bring it out for these guys today, not just myself.”
The 2017 Rolex Paris Masters champion will return to court in the final match of the opening day. Following Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz’s singles clash, Sock and Denis Shapovalov will take on Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev in the first doubles match of the tournament.
Sock’s victory was a much-needed boost for Team World following Dominic Thiem’s dramatic Match Tie-break victory against Shapovalov in the opening match of the tournament. Thiem saved three match points to overcome the Canadian 6-4, 5-7, 13-11 and improve to 2-0 in the team event.
In Thiem’s only previous Laver Cup match, the Austrian also needed a Match Tie-break to defeat John Isner in Prague.
“It’s a really special thing with the tie-break in the third,” said Thiem. “It creates lots of close moments and match points on either side. It’s also a little bit of luck at the end.”
Thiem started the contest in fine form, dropping just two points behind his first serve (16/18) and claiming nine of 13 points behind his second serve return to take a one-set lead after 35 minutes. But Shapovalov responded well, moving up the court in the second set to impose his game on the BNP Paribas Open champion and force a Match Tie-break.
Shapovalov rallied from 5/7 down to earn two match points at 9/7, but it was Thiem who played the pressure points with the greater conviction. The World No. 5 stepped inside the court to navigate his way out of trouble, attacking short balls before saving a third match point at 10/11. On his second match point, Thiem sealed the win as Shapovalov fired a cross-court forehand into the net.
Throughout the match, both players were well supported by their teammates at the side of the court. After claiming victory, Thiem acknowledged fellow Team Europe members for their support and helpful advice in crucial moments.
“I guess there is some tennis knowledge behind my bench,” said Thiem. “It is a great honour to be with them, to receive hints from them [about] how I can do better in the match.”
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#NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas made his Laver Cup debut a memorable one by overcoming an equipment malfunction and a determined Taylor Fritz to prevail 6-2, 1-6, 10-7. Tsitsipas’ shoelace broke at 2/2 in the Match Tie-break, but the 21-year-old made the surprising decision to continue playing for the remainder of the game.
”I didn’t want to stop the match. That was quite tough because I was scared I was going to lose my shoe during the point,” Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. “The momentum changed in the third-set tie-break. I found my rhythm again and had a clear mind on the court.”
Tsitsipas raced to a 5/2 lead in the Match Tie-break, but Fritz responded with a series of aggressive forehand runs to go on a four-point run. The American hit his first double fault of the match at 7/7 and Tsitsipas, No. 7 in the ATP Rankings, fired two big serves to give Team Europe a 2-1 lead.
Did You Know?
The Laver Cup will leave a legacy in Geneva, with the donation of 100,000 CHF contributing to the development of a new rehabilitation facility for children.