Djokovic gives Team Europe a 6-4 lead over Team World
Novak Djokovic has been away from the tennis tour since July 10, the day he beat Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final, because of immigration issues surrounding his rejection of the Covid vaccine. But his two-month lay-off doesn’t seem to have blunted his edge one bit.
Returning to action at the Laver Cup in London, Djokovic demonstrated that he is still the most feared man on the circuit by destroying Frances Tiafoe – the recent US Open semi-finalist – in an almost casual manner. Yes, this might not be a regular tournament, but Tiafoe was still trying his butt off (to use one of his own favourite phrases).
Roger Federer, who had played his final competitive match alongside Rafael Nadal on Friday night, must have felt a little happier about his own forced retirement after watching the ruthlessness of Djokovic’s 6-1, 6-3 victory, which occupied only 1hr 11min.
At least Federer is playing on the same European team as Djokovic, so he was able to provide words of encouragement and support during the changeovers. “Such control,” Federer gushed at one point. “It’s great to see after so many months out.”
In Djokovic’s absence, the younger generation were able to enjoy themselves at the recent US Open, where the oldest of the four semi-finalists was 26-year-old Karen Khachanov. The title was eventually seized by 19-year-old Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz.
Djokovic is ranked only at No7, but this is an entirely artificial number, based around the fact that he missed both of this season’s hard-court majors and was denied points for his Wimbledon victory because of the Russia row.
All the evidence from the O2 Arena suggests that Djokovic remains the man to beat on hard courts. And he would seem to have a better-than-evens chance of returning to Melbourne in January to play for a tenth Australian Open, after insider reports suggested that the new Labor government is prepared to overturn the visa ban he collected last year.
In his on-court interview with Todd Woodbridge, Djokovic admitted that “I was seeing the ball very well and I haven’t done many things wrong tonight.” He also described Friday night’s Federer farewell as “one of the most beautiful moments I've ever experienced in my life”.
Djokovic beats Tiafoe, as it happened
Thanks for following...
... that's all from me tonight. Relive the match below and read Simon Briggs' report above.
And join me again tomorrow for the final day of the Laver Cup.
Very classy speech by Djokovic about Federer
— Eurosport (@eurosport) September 24, 2022
I haven't played for two months and I'm really glad to have continued the run, it was a pretty decent match from my side. I'm seeing the ball well and didn't do many things wrong.
The winning moment for Djokovic
— Eurosport (@eurosport) September 24, 2022
Djokovic* 6-1, 6-3 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Blistering forehand winner down the line by Djokovic, 0-15. Tiafoe's forehand is called out and Hawkeye confirms it, 0-30.
Tiafoe backhand into the net, two match points. One final forehand into the net by Tiafoe. GAME SET MATCH EUROPE.
That was a devastating display by Djokovic.
Djokovic 6-1, 5-3 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Another brilliant running backhand pass by Tiafoe, 40-30. That was world class.
But so was an ace by Djokovic to see out any danger.
Djokovic* 6-1, 4-3 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
A rare routine service hold for Tiafoe. Can he get into another Djokovic service game to keep himself in the match?
Djokovic 6-1, 4-2 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Lovely footwork by Djokovic to run around his backhand and whip a forehand down the line for a winner, 15-15.
Tiafoe drags Djokovic to the net with a short slice and passes him with a nice cross court backhand, 30-30.
Tiafoe tries to take a Djokovic second serve but gets it all wrong with his backhand flying wide. Djokovic holds again when Tiafoe nets a backhand.
Djokovic* 6-1, 3-2 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Tiafoe forehand into the net, 0-30. Big 'come on' from Tiafoe after Djokovic nets a backhand return. Djokovic then nets another routine backhand, 30-30.
Tiafoe double fault, break point. Brilliant from Tiafoe as he comes up with a great cross court backhand winner, deuce.
Break point Djokovic after Tiafoe's forehand goes long. Wow. Tiafoe hits a drop shot that clips the top of the net and dies on Djokovic's side.
Tiafoe finishes the game with a forehand winner. He needed that game.
Djokovic 6-1, 3-1 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic wraps up a fourth love service hold of the match with an ace.
Djokovic* 6-1, 2-1 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Djokovic tries a tweener shot but gets it all wrong, 30-0. Djokovic goes for it down the line but just misses the sideline, 40-0. Tiafoe forehand wide, 40-30.
Djokovic rushes Tiafoe into another error and from 40-0 we are now at deuce. But Tiafoe finally ends Djokovic's run of games with a volley winner.
Djokovic 6-1, 2-0 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic did not drop a point on serve in the first set. But he loses a drop shot duel with Tiafoe, who makes it 30-15.
Best rally of the match from Tiafoe as he finally dictates a rally and Djokovic nets a backhand.
360 spin by Djokovic to pick a half volley but the ball sits up nicely for Tiafoe to finish with a backhand winner, break point.
Longest rally of the match, both players digging in deep but Tiafoe blinks first with a backhand error, deuce.
Djokovic survives that scare to hold serve and consolidate the break. Federer and the rest of team Europe are on their feet applauding.
Second Set: Djokovic* 6-1, 1-0 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Rare error from Djokovic as he nets a backhand return, 30-30. Tiafoe mis-hits a forehand and it's another break point for Djokovic.
Djokovic backhand wrong foots Tiafoe, who slips as the ball sails past him. Six games in a row now.
Djokovic 6-1 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
After 22 minutes, Djokovic earns himself three set points. And he takes it on the first with a stunning backhand winner down the line.
There was nothing Tiafoe could do in that set. Djokovic was just too good.
Djokovic* 5-1 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is seeing the ball like a basketball at the moment, striking it so clean, with minimal errors.
Incredible hustle from Djokovic to keep getting the ball back in play and Tiafoe blinks first with a forehand into the net.
Another Tiafoe error and it is break point for Djokovic. Too good from Djokovic as he forces Tiafoe to hit a tough volley and the ball sits up nicely for Djokovic to break again with a forehand winner.
Djokovic 4-1 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic continues to be imperious on his own serve. Tiafoe is not making him play enough.
Djokovic* 3-1 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Great pass by Djokovic and Tiafoe nets a volley, 15-30. Djokovic steps in and strikes a lovely angled forehand winner, two break points.
Tiafoe saves the first. But not the second as Djokovic gets his man on the run again and Tiafoe's forehand is long.
Djokovic 2-1 Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic yet to drop a point on serve so far as he holds to love again.
Djokovic* 1-1 Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Brilliant start to the game as Djokovic goes on the attack, gets Tiafoe on the run but the American pulls off a stunning running backhand winner,
112mph Tiafoe ace, 40-15. Djokovic backhand return long and Tiaf holds.
First Set: Novak Djokovic 1-0 Frances Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Tiafoe won the toss but opted to receive first. The decision backfires slightly as Djokovic hits two aces in a hold to love.
Here we go!
Time for the two teams to come out. Frances Tiafoe gets the loudest ovation for team World.
And unsurprisingly for team Europe, Federer gets the biggest reception. The fans are on their feet to welcome him onto court.
One last #Fedal post...
roger: ‘will i see you later?’
rafa: ‘i will wait for you’
don’t talk to me i’m crying again pic.twitter.com/iAcOtHpDvv
— mimi🧍🏻♀️| i love roger federer (@rafastefbaes) September 24, 2022
Team World are locked in
Speaking after his win earlier today, Taylor Fritz made clear his eyes are set on the prize:
It's great for the event that it's close. I feel like even if we win there is going to be tons of people that say, Oh, it's staged, it's an XO, blah, blah, blah. We want this so bad.
Yeah, it's definitely good that it's close. We try our best every year, and ultimately it's close right now, but it is going to come down to Day 3.
Laver Cup match points scoring
Each match win will be worth:
one point on Friday
two points on Saturday
three points on Sunday
The first team to reach 13 points will win the Laver Cup. In the event of a tie after all 12 matches are played, a final overtime doubles match - a Decider - is played
Now Federer's retired, he's part of the Laver Cup welcome committee
Great to catch up with @rogerfederer after the final game of his incredible career. Not just one of the greatest athletes of all time, one of the nicest guys you could ever meet too. Same goes for @andy_murray - seriously funny guy! #LaverCup pic.twitter.com/9QGZxYsRAq
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) September 24, 2022
About last night...
Hello and welcome to coverage from the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena. There wasn't a dry eye in the house last night as Roger Federer bid an emotional farewell to tennis alongside his great rival Rafael Nadal.
The pair, representing Team Europe, were beaten by Team World's Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in a thrilling doubles match. That meant the score was 2-2 going into day two. In the day session, Matteo Berrettini added two points to Europe's tally when he beat Felix Auger-Aliassime. Taylor Fritz levelled the scores again at 4-4 when he beat Cameron Norrie.
Tonight it is the turn of 21-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic, who is on double duty. First he plays Tiafoe in the singles then he will team up with Berrettini against Sock and Alex de Minaur. Djokovic has not played a tennis match since winning Wimbledon in July after he was denied entry into the US for the summer hard court season due to his unvaccinated status but the Serbian insists he has no regrets.
"No, I don't have any regrets," Djokovic told reporters. "I mean, I do feel sad that I wasn't able to play, but, you know, that was decision that I made. I knew what the consequences will be, so I accepted them. That's it. I mean, I congratulate Alcaraz for winning the US Open. He did it in an incredible fashion, in three or four five-set matches in the tournament. He's 19 years old and already number one in the world."
Nadal pulled out of the remainder of the Laver Cup due to personal reasons after partnering Federer last night. The Spaniard is expecting his first child with wife Mery Perello soon but made the trip to London to play alongside the Swiss maestro for the final time.