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Laver Cup ‘2018

2018.10.04 Няма коментари

by Ognian Rashkov

Last weekend Chicago hosted the distinguished Laver Cup tournament at the United Center over three days (Sept 21-23). Only the world’s top players are invited to this unique team competition. Grigor Dimitrov made the list along with Federer, Djokovic, Sasha Zverev, Goffin, and Edmund to represent team Europe (Blue) with captain Bjorn Borg. The opponents on Team World (Red) were the two giants Kevin Anderson (2.03 m), John Isner (2.08 m) along with Diego Schwartzman (1.70 m), Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios, and Frances Tiafoe with captain John McEnroe.

Laver Cup was on my list for some time, but the ticket prices were not in my budget. Luckily, in the week of the event, we managed to buy four tickets at a face value of $40 each for seats on the 300 level for the Friday afternoon session. Initially, I was concerned that I would not be able to see anything from that high up and would have to resort to the Jumbotron. To my great surprise, we had a perfect bird’s eye view of the court. After having a great experience in the first day, we decided to come back on Sunday afternoon to catch the event’s closing session. This time, however, the demand to watch Federer was driving ticket prices much higher.

When purchasing tickets for the first day, the schedule was still unknown and my son made the comment that he would be pissed if Grigor did not have a match on that day. Guess what? The opening match was Grigor vs Tiafoe. Grisho came out calm and started the game confidently with 3 aces in a row to finish the 2 sets in style in just a little over an hour, setting the tone for team Europe (1:0). Also, on the second day he played doubles with Goffin vs Sock/Kyrgios, but they were outplayed in both sets (6:3, 6:4). Team Europe struggled on doubles and lost all three matches. The key player who won all three double matches for Team World was Jack Sock. He is a three-time Grand Slam doubles champion, winning his second Wimbledon title earlier this year with Mike Bryan. Sock plays with Babolat Pure Aero Plus, my personal choice of tennis racquet, and I was happy to watch a pro in action and witness how to tie the rubber band vibration dampener.

For the first time in history Djokovic and Federer played doubles together vs Sock/Anderson, but anyone could tell that they were not tailored for this game and they lost in the tie break 6:10. Federer and Djokovic’s lack of team coordination was best illustrated in a situation when Djokovic hit his partner with the ball and the crowd exploded in laughter. Novak also lost in the singles to Kevin Anderson (South Africa) after trading the first two sets and then going down in the tie break (10:6). Instead of a full third set, the rule of the tournament is to play a long tie break of 10 points, if the match is tied after two sets. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Federer won both his single matches, beating Kyrgios in two sets (6:3; 6:2) and Isner with a tie break (10:7). In this way Federer won 5 points for Team Europe. The number of points given for a win depends on the day of the tournament: 1 point is given for a win on the first day, 2 points on the second, and 3 points on the third day.

Sascha Zverev is the young hero who at only age 20 managed to outplay in singles matches both of the giants J. Isner and K. Anderson with the same end result (10:7 in the tie break). The phenomenal match vs Anderson contributed the final 3 points and delivered the Laver Cup to team Europe, with a final score 13:8. Along with Federer, Zverev also made a 5 point contribution. Grigor, Edmund (tie break 10:7 vs Sock), and Goffin (tie break 11:9 vs Schwartzman) all won their singles matches in the first day and added 1 point each toward the success of Team Europe. Novak was scheduled to play vs Kyrgios as the last match, but Zverev clinched the victory and there were only three matches on Sunday afternoon instead of the potential four.

After the final match ended, we quickly took the stairs and moved to the front line closer to the tennis court to watch the ceremony and admire the trophy. Everyone played with passion and most of the matches were very close; the points could have easily gone the other way. At the end, Team Europe showed more consistent play during the tournament and prevailed with the cup.

I believe some of you were also part of this event and I would be happy to see any comments and materials posted on the website. For those of you who are interested in more details, you can visit the website lavercup.com or Amazon Prime members can enjoy some highlights of the matches under Laver Cup 2018.

Much to Federer’s delight, the host for the next Laver Cup in 2019 (Sept 20-22) is Geneva. And if you wish to watch the Maestro live and the performance of the rest of the world’s best, you should plan ahead. We had a great time and got lucky to take a piece of history home. Federer and Zverev, the MVPs who played doubles together as well, signed the front of my Bulgarian cap and Djokovic signed on the other side of it. Even though the cap carries the value of a staggering 14 Wimbledon titles altogether, it is still missing one key attribute: the signature of the one who put Bulgaria on the world tennis map. Most likely, I will have to chase Grisho in Geneva 2019.

 

Photo: Rossen Rashkov

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