O2 ARENA — The day that will end with Roger Federer retiring started with two victories for Team Europe at the Laver Cup in London.
The O2 is staging the fifth edition of this annual event, and while this weekend has essentially become Federer’s farewell party, there is still a trophy to be won come Sunday.
Team Europe have dominated this tournament since its inception in 2017, winning all four events so far, and having won 14-1 last year the hope was for a more competitive spectacle this time around.
On paper, Europe have the stronger team with four top-10 players to Team World’s zero, but some of the match-ups may well prove to be closer than the ATP rankings let on, with the visiting team boasting a youthful roster that could well trouble Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
First up for Europe, however, was their highest-ranked player in the event, world No 2 Casper Ruud, who opened the show against USA’s Jack Sock on Friday afternoon.
Ruud, a French Open and US Open finalist this year, took the opening set against Sock, but the American replied to level the match with his teammates close by in support.
A super tie-break followed to decide the victor, and it was Ruud who clinched it 10-7 to hand Europe an early 1-0 lead.
Stefanos Tsitsipas’ match against Diego Schwartzman followed, and it was largely overshadowed by a climate change activist setting fire to his own arm on the court before being carried off by security.
“It came out of nowhere. I had no idea what this was all about. I’ve never had an incident like this before on court. I hope he’s alright,” Tsitsipas, who won the 6-2 6-1 to help Europe double their lead, said afterwards.
Laver Cup Friday results and schedule
1pm Day Session
- Match 1 – Casper Ruud beats Jack Sock 6-4 5-7 (10-7) – Singles
- Match 2 – Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Diego Schwartzman 6-2 6-1 – Singles
7pm Night Session
- Match 3 – Andy Murray vs Alex de Minaur – Singles
- Match 4 – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal vs Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe – Doubles
Team Europe lead 2-0
Asked about whether his discussion with the umpire was to ensure the court was playable, the Greek replied: “Correct.
“I wanted to proceed that match without having any minor changes to the court. I wanted to make sure it was playable, especially that area. It also got in my way, the way I saw the court later, there was a big mark and I wanted it to be cleaned up.”
Murray kickstarts the evening’s action at 7pm BST when taking on Australian Alex de Minaur.
That comes before Friday’s main event, with the roof likely to come off when Federer steps out for one last time, with Nadal beside him and Team World duo Sock and Frances Tiafoe their opponents.