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Djokovic takes leading role at Laver Cup

By Paul Myers - RFI
Tennis AP - Kin Cheung
SEP 25, 2022 LISTEN
AP - Kin Cheung

Former world number one Novak Djokovic claimed centre stage at the Laver Cup on Saturday night as he won both his singles and doubles matches to help Team Europe into a commanding position against Team World.

The 35-year-old Serb swept past Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3 in the first match of the night session to give his squad a lead of six points to four in the intercontinental team tournament.

It was his first competitive match since claiming a seventh Wimbledon title in July to add a 21st Grand Slam singles trophy to his cabinet.

"I thought he played better than he did at Wimbledon," said Tiafoe dryly.

"A guy can only play as well as you allow him to play. I had a low percentage of first serves so he was able to take swings at my second serves but from the back of the court I was solid. I threw a lot of things at him but he had the answers."

The tie at the 02 Arena in south-east London was over in 71 minutes.

Satisfaction
"It was a pretty decent match from my side," said Djokovic. "I was pleased with how I was seeing the ball."

Recalling the emotions of Friday night when Roger Federer played the last match of an illustrious 24-year career, Djokovic said. "It was one of the most beautiful moments I have witnessed.

"We all knew it was going to be difficult," he added. "And I was happy to be alongside other Team Europe and Team World players for it."

Return
After a break of 15 minutes, Djokovic joined forces with Matteo Berrettini - a winner in the singles in the first tie of the day - for the doubles match against Jack Sock and Alex de Minaur.

Djokovic and Berrettini took de Minaur's opening service game but Berrettini faltered when serving for the first set at 5-3 up. The pair eventually claimed the opener 7-5 and they carried that momentum into the second set to eventually overpower the American and Australian duo 6$-2.

It was all over in 81 minutes.
"Everyone keeps talking about Novak being away for a couple of months but clearly there was no rust," said Sock.

Power
"We were all impressed with his serving in singles and doubles. It seems that he's serving faster and hitting his spots.

"I wish we could have taken it into a tiebreak in the first set to see what would have happened ... but Novak is playing some great tennis."

The Djokovic inspired sweep of the Saturday evening matches gave Team Europe an 8-4 lead heading into the final day of games where each victory is worth three points.

The first team to 13 points will claim the 2022 trophy.

"Looking at the overall score, I think it was very important for us to win the doubles," Djokovic added.

"Having the four point advantage will give us a bit more confidence and less pressure."

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