Team World take 2-0 lead in Laver Cup title defense
US Open semi-finalist Ben Shelton and Francisco Cerundolo grabbed straight-set victories to give Team World a quick 2-0 lead Friday in their Laver Cup title defense.
America's Shelton got Team World off the mark with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 victory over Team Europe's Arthur Fils.
"I really wanted to be able to set the tone with my energy for Team World today," Shelton said after roaring home in one hour and 18 minutes. "I think it went pretty well."
Argentina's Cerundolo followed with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Team Europe's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain -- the first time that Team World had led after the opening session of day one.
"Obviously we came in with guns blazing," said Team World captain John McEnroe.
Team World are defending the title for the first time. Europe won the first four editions of the event that began in 2017, but Team World triumphed last year in London in an edition notable for a farewell doubles appearance by Swiss great Roger Federer alongside long-time rival Rafael Nadal.
Federer was in attendance at Rogers Arena -- home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks -- and received a huge ovation as the teams captained by McEnroe and Bjorn Borg were introduced.
Shelton, the American 20-year-old whose sensational run to the US Open semi-finals saw him rise to 19th in the world, seized control in the first set tiebreaker against France's Fils.
Fils, a 19-year-old who earned his first ATP title at Lyon in May, led the tiebreaker 4-1, but Shelton won six straight points to pocket the set and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the second with the first service break of the contest.
As Fils's unforced errors mounted, Shelton broke again for a 5-1 lead and served it out with aplomb.
- 'Unmatched' McEnroe -
A service winner gave him double match point and on the next point Fils netted the return of Shelton's second serve to end it.
Shelton finished with seven aces and didn't face a break point against the 44th-ranked Frenchman.
Shelton, last year's US collegiate singles champion for the University of Florida, said he was enjoying playing again in a team format, and benefitting from the counsel of McEnroe, a left-hander like himself.
"It's just amazing, the few pieces of advice that I picked up from him the last few days," Shelton said. "It has been great to be around him. His energy is unmatched."
The second match featured a see-saw second set with seven breaks of serve. Cerundolo was broken the first time he served for the match at 5-4, but after immediately breaking back he closed it out.
Known for his booming forehand, Cerundolo made effective use of the drop shot in the final two games to keep Davidovich Fokina off balance making effective use of the drop shot in the final two games to become the first Argentine player to win a Laver Cup match.
"I enjoyed it a lot," Cerundolo, who won a grass court title at Eastbourne this year, said. "I felt very comfortable from the beginning of the match. I'm very happy to get the win and a point for my team."
In Friday's remaining singles match, Team Europe's Gael Monfils of France faced Team World's Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.
Day one action concluded with Fils and Andrey Rublev teaming against Americans Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul in doubles.
Friday's matches are worth one point while Saturday's are worth two and Sunday's three. The first team to reach 13 points wins.
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