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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, September 22, 2017

Laver Cup Facbeook

Pulsating shot-making, tie-break tests, Bjorn Borg's magic man and Roger Federer's coaching all make our list of memorable Laver Cup moments.

Photo credit: Laver Cup Facebook

The coal-colored court was dressed like a subterranean stage.

Opening day of the inaugural Laver Cup popped with tie break theatricality.

Watch: Struff Upsets Tsonga, Fognini Into St. Petersburg Semifinals

Tie breakers decided all seven singles sets at the O2 Arena in Prague.

Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic came back from a break down in the second set edging 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (0).

Roland Garros semifinalist Dominic Thiem outdueled John Isner, 6-7 (15), 7-6 (2), 10-7.

World No. 4 Alexander Zverev denied Denis Shapovalov, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), staking Team Europe to a 3-0 lead over the World Team.

Nick Kyrgios cranked an ace down the middle as the Aussie No. 1 and Jack Sock snapped the shutout with a 6-3, 6-7, 10-7 victory over Europe's Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych. After opening day, Europe holds a 3-1 lead.

All of Saturday's day two matches are worth two points, which gives the World team plenty of opportunity though they'll have to defeat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in singles to score.

Here’s our top takeaways from opening day.

High Quality, High Spirits

Fans and players were engaged in every match creating a high-energy atmosphere.

While rallies were brief in the Thiem-Isner match, as expected, there were flashes of shotmaking from each player on day one.

Enthusiasm brought added entertainment value.

World Team showed its support for Shapovalov doing push-ups for each point he won in the second-set tie break then bringing the floor is lava burn.

Bjorn Borg’s Major Mane

The evolution of Bjorn Borg’s hair deserves an International Tennis Hall of Fame exhibit.

The Hall of Famer typically grew a beard through his run to five Wimbledon championships. The Europe Team captain's hair looked electrified during play today.

As a teenager he was the Angelic Assassin. At age 61, Borg still boasts heavenly hair.


#LaverCup: An electric atmosphere.

A post shared by Laver Cup (@lavercup) on

Bench Chatter

Microphones near the captain’s couch and player bench amplified the fact some players are chatty and often deliver spot-on observation.

World captain John McEnroe urged Tiafoe and Shapovalov to play with urgency and aggression.

The Team World bench was yelling at Isner to “Cover the wide one” after Thiem had tormented the big man’s backhand with his kicker. Unfortunately for Isner, Thiem heard it to and answered banging a serve down the T.

Roger Federer squeezed in between Zverev, his sometime practice partner, and captain Borg to remind the Montreal champion to hold his ground with aggressive court positioning in neutral rallies.

History is Fluid, so Are Champions

Spin and string technology combined with the homogenized hard courts have changed the dimensions of the game since the days Borg and McEnroe dueled on a chewed-up Centre Court lawn.

Laver Cup captains remind champions are built from the ground up.

Looking at the cast on court today you saw of the best lateral movers in history—Borg and Nadal—one of the best forward closers in McEnroe and Federer, the best balanced and most balletic player who is so smooth it appears he’s dancing to inner iTunes mix.

Frances Tiafoe, Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock are already three of the quickest and most explosive movers—chasing one running forehand Tiafoe was sprinting so quickly he leaped the wall into the photographers pit on one point—though their footwork differs.

Black and Blue Are Power Colors

The charcoal court looks stealth—the kind of court you’d imagine seeing in the Bat Cave. There’s plenty of running room.

Prominent signage from blue-chip sponsors Rolex and JP Moran adorned the black back walls. The Mercedes star was affixed to net.

The fact major Grand Slam sponsors—Rolex is the official time keeper of Wimbledon and JP Morgan is a 36-year US Open sponsor—have invested support as well as the capacity crowd suggests a firm future for Laver Cup. Next year, the competition will be staged in the United States as part of plan to alternate host continents.

Visions and Revisions

The exhibition delivered technical experimentation.

Camera angles from behind the return showed just how deviously lethal the bounce is on Isner’s kick serve, a service-line camera shot allowed viewers to look into Kyrgios’ eyes as he knelt in doubles I-formation and behind the scenes cameras gave glimpses of Nadal riding a stationary bike, Thiem juggling a tennis ball soccer style and Isner jogging on a treadmill.

On-court interviews with captains Borg and McEnroe as well as various players gave viewers multiple vantage points and it was all streamed live on Facebook.

That interactivity and energy from the O2 crowd as well as a pre-match light show and music between maches—the Thin Lizzy classic “Boys Are Back In Town” blared from the sound system as Nadal, Berdych, Kyrgios and Sock took the court for doubles—kept things rocking.

Perhaps organizers can continue the interactivity next year and let fans choose an opening day match or pick a doubles pairing or host team captains and coaches conducting a clinic for fans and live stream it on the web site.


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