Berrettini, Ruud give Team Europe early lead at Laver Cup

Sep 24, 2021, 1:40 AM | Updated: 3:37 pm
Team Europe players cheer after Casper Ruud, of Norway, defeated Team World's Reilly Opelka, of the...

Team Europe players cheer after Casper Ruud, of Norway, defeated Team World's Reilly Opelka, of the USA, at Laver Cup tennis, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON (AP) — The pandemic-delayed fourth edition of the Laver Cup — and first without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic participating — began Friday with Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud giving Team Europe a 2-0 lead over Team World.

Italy’s Berrettini, the runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, saved 12 of 13 break points and came back to edge Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in a match tiebreaker 6-7 (3), 7-5, 10-8.

That came after Norway’s Ruud broke American Reilly Opelka in their match’s third game and again to end the opening set along the way to a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory on a hard court at the arena used by the NBA’s Celtics and NHL’s Bruins.

Opelka, whose game is built on his big serve and forehand, said afterward the setup “suits him better than me” and described it as “slow and dead.”

“It’s the slowest conditions I’ve ever played in, the combo of the court and the ball,” Opelka said.

Ruud acknowledged that worked to his advantage, as did what he said were bits of sand on the court that made it slippery.

“It’s fairly slow,” Ruud said about the court, “and his serve, I felt, wasn’t that fast today as it maybe usually is, because of the surface and also the balls, the way they get after three or four games.”

Team Europe has won all three Laver Cups so far, helped each time by Federer — whose management company is the driving force behind the exhibition event — and either Nadal or Djokovic. The members of the Big Three currently share the men’s record with 20 Grand Slam titles apiece.

Djokovic is coming off a run to the final of the U.S. Open; Federer and Nadal are done for the season because of injuries.

Federer was seated courtside Friday, when the night session was scheduled to include a singles match between Andrey Rublev of Russia and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, followed by a doubles matchup of Berrettini and Alexander Zverev of Germany against John Isner of the U.S. and Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

A team must reach 13 points to win the three-day competition. Each match victory is worth one point on Friday, two on Saturday and three on Sunday.

Boston was supposed to host the Laver Cup last year but it was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Berrettini, Ruud give Team Europe early lead at Laver Cup