Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal continued Team Europe's dominance of the 2017 Laver Cup at the 02 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, on Saturday. Both won their singles matches, against Sam Querrey and Jack Sock respectively, before beating the same pair in their first-ever appearance as a doubles partnership.
Federer beat Querrey 6-2, 6-4 before Nadal saw off Sock 6-3, 3-6, 1-0 (11-9). The doubles match was later won 6-4, 1-6, 1-0 (10-5).
In between, Nick Kyrgios got Team World's lone win of the day after beating Tomas Berdych in a marathon match 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (10-6). However, Berdych and Co. still ended the day with a healthy 9-3 lead in the inaugural edition of the tournament.
Federer got things rolling well for Team Europe by making quick work of Querrey. The latter appeared overwhelmed early on, barely getting near Federer during the first set.
Querrey made things closer in the second, but Federer ultimately had too much class and eased his way to more precious points for Team Europe.
Team World was trailing 5-1 when Sock made a determined effort to make life uncomfortable for Nadal. The American was dominated in the first set but stunned the Spaniard by winning the second 6-3.
Sock was hardly lacking motivation thanks to his coach, John McEnroe, who urged the 24-year-old to seize the moment against his illustrious opponent, per Christopher Clarey of the New York Times:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
McEnroe going hard at Sock on that last changeover. Telling him that this match vs Nadal is his chance to take the next step in his career2017-9-23 13:57:16
It looked like McEnroe's prodding would go unheeded as Nadal bossed the start of the third and deciding mini set. However, a game Sock battled valiantly and Nadal ultimately only just scraped through 11-9.
The drama of the mini set, a virtual tiebreak system, prompted Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph to wonder about the merit of the traditional three-set format:
Simon Briggs @simonrbriggs
The quality of Nadal's 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 victory over Sock in Prague has something interesting to say about formats, ie. do we need a 3rd set?2017-9-23 14:33:44
Saturday's final singles match saw big-serving Berdych take the first set 6-4 against Kyrgios. The latter was hampered by a knee issue, per the Laver Cup official Twitter account:
Laver Cup @LaverCup
Trainer called to work on #Kyrgios' knee at the change of ends after the opening set. #LaverCup https://t.co/vvvoluD3su2017-9-23 17:50:30
Kyrgios failed to make the most of a chance for break point when he was already one game up in the second. Instead, Berdych battled back to deuce before holding serve to even the set at 1-1.
The next game saw Kyrgios hold, as Team World looked capable of earning a first win of the day. Kyrgios' belief was strengthened when he opened a 30-0 lead in the next game, only for Berdych to battle back and eventually take the game to draw level at 2-2.
It was 4-4 when Kyrgios held serve to finally edge in front. He forced a tiebreak he eventually won to claim the second set, before winning the third mini session 10-6 to finally get Team World on the board.
There was naturally a lot of anticipation regarding the Federer and Nadal double act, but BBC Radio 5 live's David Law wondered whether the partnership would work:
Be interesting to see if Nadal / Federer gel. Recall Sampras / Edberg partnership getting absolutely hammered. Think by Eltingh/Haarhuis.2017-9-23 19:09:06
Law's concerns looked well-founded when Querrey and Sock raced into a 2-1 lead. The American pair were looking more in sync than their illustrious counterparts, but the superior talent of Nadal and Federer eventually told, as the illustrious duo took the first set 6-4.
Yet, Querrey and Sock roared back to win the second 6-1. It meant another chance for fans to experience the mini format of an abbreviated third set, one Federer and Nadal won convincingly 10-5.
This is the second day in a row Team Europe won three of the four matches played. It now appears inevitable Federer, Nadal and Co. will surely be the first to lift this maiden trophy.