'Game On, Baby!' Ruud Puts Team Europe On The Board At Laver Cup
With Team Europe staring down a 0-6 deficit at the Laver Cup, Casper Ruud delivered in what felt like a must-win match against Tommy Paul on Saturday afternoon in Vancouver. Ruud's 7-6(6), 6-2 result put the Europeans on the board and kickstarted the team's efforts to win back the Laver Cup, after they lost it for the first time last season.
Ruud saved a set point in the first-set tie-break against Paul, ultimately winning the final three points of the set before dominating the second.
"Game on baby!" Ruud said after clinching the win.
"It was a bit of a steal maybe in the tie-break, from 5/6 down. [I hit] a big serve and a couple of big points. That's Laver Cup. Even though World are up 6-2, there have been some close calls. They won the first two or three tie-breaks that we played and luckily this one went Europe's way. Hopefully it can be somewhat of a momentum shift for us now."
The Norwegian was broken just once in the match, when Paul got back on serve midway through the opening set, but he powered through the second set without facing a break point.
Speaking at the conclusion of the day session, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg was hopeful that Ruud's win could spark a methodical turnaround for the four-time champions: "Team World is strong, they've been playing great tennis," he said. "I think, hopefully, we'll be slowly coming back."
In a battle of aggressive baseliners, Fritz's clean ball-striking helped him dictate more of the action on the indoor hard courts. Rublev had his moments, including several screaming return winners, but Fritz's steadier tennis — and dogged defence at times — made the difference.
Fritz immediately carried over the momentum from Friday by breaking in the opening game and easing to a one-set lead. Rublev, seeking to win Team Europe's first singles set at this year's event, started well in set two but saw his 3-0 lead erased as Fritz came on strong late.
Both players fought off a break point late in set two, with Rublev's break chance doubling as a set point at 6-5. In the decisive tie-break, Fritz hit two brilliant half-volleys to help seal the match.
"I was telling my team, I feel like I've always been much better at the handsy half-volley pick-ups and stuff," Fritz said of those moments of magic. "I feel like people definitely don't believe that I have that. But I think I'm more likely to miss the easier volleys than the half-volleys."
Fritz was in constant communication with captain John McEnroe and his team during changeovers, and the American said he thrives in the group setting.
"Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game," he explained. "I feel like I always play better actually, I feel like my record in team events is really strong and it's because I have a team cheering for me. I can get pumped up for them, I'm excited to play for them. It just adds a lot more pressure and fire to it and I think I play better in those situations."
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Laver Cup.
Team Europe has a chance to level the score at 6-6 with two more wins in Saturday's evening slate. Europe's Hubert Hurkacz will play Frances Tiafoe before Hurkacz and Gael Monfils take on Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton in doubles.
After one point was awarded for each win on Day 1 at Laver Cup, two points are on offer for each win on Saturday. On Sunday, three points will be awarded for each victory. With a 6-2 lead, Team World is nearly halfway to the 13 points needed to win the trophy.