It was a full day at the Laver Cup today. And, rather than writing thousands of words, how about we look at some pictures?
1. Federer vs. Querrey
This one went by fast — Federer was precise and motivated — after all, who wants to lose at their own tournament? After a day of tight matches on Friday, this one was over pretty fast.
2. Sock vs. Nadal
Quite possibly the match of the day — sure, there was a headline making doubles match at night, but this one had more suspense and competitive spirit throughout. Jack Sock, like many of his teammates this weekend got very close to beating his higher ranked opponent from Team Europe…but not quite.
Not only was the match itself compelling, but this is one where both the coaching aspect, and the team factor were very effective. The snippets we’ve heard of McEnroe’s pep talks show that he definitely cares about winning this thing — and he’s putting his all into motivating his charges. I have to think one or more of them will have a killer McEnroe impression when this weekend is over.
While they may not come away with the trophy, barring some serious collapses from Team Europe, Team World has shown a great deal of spirit, unity and fight. They haven’t won many matches, but they’ve certainly won the hearts of the audience (and possibly each other).
As much as Team World lets it all hang out, Team Europe has been more restrained in their reactions. But seeing Rafa fight on their behalf (instead of against them) inspired some hearty cheering.
3. Kyrgios vs. Berdych
Of all of players who have come to Prague, I would say none has benefited more from the Laver Cup format than Nick Kyrgios. His antics and support of his teammates have endeared him to the audience, which must be a new sensation for him, given his recent spate of bad press and fan criticism. Tennis, as it’s played these days, tends to favor those with incredible drive, concentration, and mental toughness — all done pretty much in isolation during matches. Here, Nick gets to play around a little, let off steam with his teammates and Coach McEnroe, and still play a regulation match. Berdych came out motivated — and he played very well for most of this match — and particularly in the first set.
But Kyrgios simply hung around and continued to fight, taking the match to a deciding tiebreak, which he snuck out. You have to think McEnroe enjoyed the guy’s toughness here. It has been heartening to see how much McEnroe has taken his role as coach to heart — it may help that his team is younger and greener, and that many of the players have known him as a part of the US tennis landscape for many years, but it’s a good look for him. He is far too successful as a commentator to give it up for coaching full time, but I suspect that at least some of the guys have appreciated his efforts.
4. Federer/Nadal vs. Sock/Querrey
Now for the main event — goes to show you what a blockbuster this is when doubles is the main event of such a packed day. But, this was the pairing that was advertised on day one, and Federer and Nadal certainly delivered, against a team featuring Jack Sock, likely the best pure doubles player at the Laver Cup, and the big serving of Sam Querrey. This was an odd match, with two not particularly competitive sets, and a not particularly competitive match tiebreak. But let’s just look at some pictures.
These two have been pretty chatty all weekend, and particularly so during the match. I have to think that Rafa was mostly rejecting Fed’s suggestions re: serving and returning until he got one that he liked. Either that, or they were debating whether or not Rafa should reconsider his hatred of cheese. Also pretty funny was the fact that Roger sometimes had to go back and be told again on multiple occasions.
It wasn’t pretty much of the time, but the two headliners managed to win. I think they knew they had to — how would it ever be explained on Sportscenter that the two guys dueling for GOAT status lost to a pair of much lower ranked players — tennis fans will know that doubles has its own skill set, but most general sports fans would find it to be a headscratcher. Well, there is a GIF that might do the trick explaining a loss, but luckily, they didn’t have to and could celebrate putting Team Europe in the driver’s seat going into Sunday. And putting the Laver Cup firmly into the sports calendar.