Coming into the final match of the opening day at the Laver Cup, Team World was in uncharted territory. Thanks to Jack Sock’s impressive win over Team Europe’s Fabio Fognini, the World squad avoided going winless in Day 1 singles matches for the third successive year.
Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev made sure that was the only highlight for their opposition. The duo saved an eye-opening 15 of 16 break points to defeat Sock and Denis Shapovalov, 6-3, 7-5, on Friday evening in Geneva to put Team Europe ahead 3-1 going into the second day of the competition. It was a form of revenge for Federer and Zverev, who lost a match worth three points last year in Chicago to Sock and John Isner, which at the time, enabled Team World to take its first ever lead at the event.
“There’s no place like playing at home. This is a very special night for me,” Federer told the crowd afterwards. “Thanks, Sascha for a great match. He carried me in that second set.”
It was no surprise to see Sock tipped for the doubles match, given his remarkable history of finding success with a range of partners on the tour and in this competition. In fact, the American has been his team’s greatest contributor throughout its Laver Cup history, accounting for 11 of their 18 points—with 10 coming in doubles.
Given Sock’s abilities and Federer’s strength in volleying and understanding angles, attention shifted to the racquets of Zverev and Shapovalov. While both showed signs of nerves early at the net, the Canadian blinked first when serving at 1-2, as he was broken at love following a challenge by Zverev that resulted in a double fault. Shapovalov and Sock went 0-3 on break points in dropping the first set.
Team Europe broke Sock to open the second set when Zverev connected on a forehand return winner, but Shapovalov and Sock stayed with their opponents. On their 10th break point opportunity, the World pair finally converted after Shapovalov unloaded on Federer’s second serve to handcuff Zverev at the net and level for 4-all.
Zverev, whose serve went off the rails during the North American hard-court swing, was solid throughout the clash. He handled the pressure of facing six set points at 4-5—partially due to miscues made by net-man Federer—to avoid a decisive match tiebreaker. For the second time, Shapovalov double faulted to drop serve and Federer shut the door in the ensuing game.
“I had two great coaches. One on the court and one on the sideline who were telling me what to do every single point,” Zverev said. “It was perfect. I could shut down my brain a little bit and just do whatever they told me.”