Berrettini Battles Past Felix In Laver Cup Thriller, Extends Team Europe Lead

  • Posted: Sep 25, 2021

Matteo Berrettini was down for most of his Laver Cup match against close friend Felix Auger-Aliassime on Friday in Boston. But the Italian did not panic, and clawed past the Canadian 6-7(3), 7-5, 10-8 to give Team Europe a 2-0 lead against Team World.

The Italian faced 13 break points, but saved 12 of them to remain in touch with the recent US Open semi-finalist. And after a thrilling two hours and 52 minutes inside the TD Garden, Berrettini triumphed by hitting a backhand passing shot that a diving Auger-Aliassime was unable to reach.

“I felt the match was really hard. Felix was playing really good, not giving me anything, no mistakes, serving really well. I felt a different energy. I was playing for my team, not just for myself,” Berrettini said in his on-court interview. “I felt great and they helped me a lot.”

Berrettini entered the match with a 2-1 advantage in the pair’s ATP Head2Head rivalry. But the margins were razor-thin on the slow indoor hard court, and the World No. 7 rallied from 5/7 down in the Match Tie-Break to claim his victory after a gruelling two hours and 52 minutes.

The friends are two of the biggest hitters on the ATP Tour. But with their shots not moving quickly through the court, it became a tactical battle, with both men showing a willingness to move forward to finish points.

At 8/8 on Berrettini’s serve in the Match Tie-break, Auger-Aliassime worked his way into the point. But the World No. 11 mishit a neutral forehand, which gave his opponent match point, which the Italian converted.

Casper Ruud
Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Laver Cup
Casper Ruud got Team Europe off to a good start on Friday afternoon by beating Team World’s Reilly Opelka 6-3, 7-6(4) after one hour and 46 minutes. The Norwegian star forced the big-serving American to play grinding baseline rallies and saved all three break points he faced to take a 3-0 lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head Series.

“I was quite nervous in the beginning,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “It’s a big stadium, big crowd. You get chills when you walk on court. You have the intro, the music and seeing all the legends. But luckily I handled it well.”

Ruud needed three sets to win his first two matches against Opelka, most recently triumphing against him in a final-set tie-break in Cincinnati. But on the slow court, the Norwegian was at home as he limited the free points he gave the home favourite and controlled rallies from the baseline. Opelka prefers to be the aggressor, but he was too often left chasing after balls just to try to put them back into play.

Captain John McEnroe, Nick Kyrgios and John Isner urged Opelka to mix things up and go for more on certain points to plant seeds of doubt in Ruud’s mind. The American rushed the net and served and volleyed on occasion. In the second-set tie-break, he hit a backhand drop volley with so much backspin, it bounced on Ruud’s side and back into the net.

But Ruud never panicked and pumped his fist after hitting a deep return that forced Opelka to make his final error of the match into the net.

“I got an early break, which kind of calms the nerves down a little bit. I’m sure it was the same for Reilly, he’s playing at home,” Ruud said. “I was just trying to enjoy the moment and play without pressure. It was a very good match for me.”

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