MATCH POINT: Ruud makes winning start for Team Europe

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After a two-year wait, Team Europe has picked up right where it left off at Laver Cup.

Hosted at Boston’s TD Garden a year after being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans filed in to see the fourth edition of the men’s team competition launched Friday. In 2019, Team Europe remained unbeaten after claiming victory in Geneva. This time around, a significant batch of event newcomers are giving the spectacle a refreshed look over the weekend, and that’s exactly what was presented to kick off proceedings.

With event co-founder Roger Federer watching in the stands, Team Europe’s Casper Ruud rose to the occasion to defeat Team World’s Reilly Opelka, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in securing the first point.

“I was quite nervous in the beginning. It’s a big stadium, big crowd,” Ruud admitted on-court afterwards.

“You get chills when you walk on court. You have the intro, the music, seeing all the legends. Luckily, I handled it well. I got an early break, which kind of calmed the nerves down a little bit. I was just trying to enjoy the moment and play without pressure.”

Ruud broke Opelka in the third game of the match when the American’s inability to put away an overhead cost him. Giving Ruud time to line up a backhand down the line, Opelka missed his follow-up forehand drop volley. He was then broken a second time to end the set.

For the Norwegian, he outclassed his opponent at the line despite making just 50 percent of his first serves. Opelka couldn’t get much going in winning just 29 percent of his second-serve return points, though at 3-3 in the second set, he held two break points. Ruud wiped both away, notably handcuffing Opelka on a second-serve kicker at 30-40.

In the tie-break, Ruud drilled Opelka at the net to get the first mini break for 2-1—and it was all he needed. The 22-year-old’s deep slice push return drew a netted forehand to end it.

“I tried to stay in on the first serves and block the return, try to neutralize his serve. That’s the only thing you can do,” said Ruud. “I know from the baseline, I’ve been playing well here all week. That’s always the plan.”

Later, Matteo Berrettini edged Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-7 (3), 7-5 [10-8], after two hours and 52 minutes to add another point for the European contingent.

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Ruud made just nine unforced errors on his Laver Cup debut.

Ruud made just nine unforced errors on his Laver Cup debut.