Cameron Norrie was unable to step into Rafael Nadal’s shoes on the second day of the Laver Cup with Team Europe and Team World level at 4-4 come the conclusion of the afternoon session at the O2 on Saturday.
British number one Norrie was tasked with replacing Nadal, who had played in a emotional doubles clash with Roger Federer on Friday night but always appeared unlikely to feature in the singles at the Ryder Cup-style team competition.
American Taylor Fritz was Norrie’s opponent for the second match of the session in what was an 11th meeting between the pair, the most recent being in the Davis Cup earlier this month.
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Norrie won on that occasion but went down 6-1 4-6 10-8 in London to the 24-year-old, who helped keep Team World firmly in title contention after team-mate Felix Auger-Aliassime lost at the start of the day to Matteo Berrettini.
World number 12 Fritz said on-court: “There is a really big difference between 6-2 and 4-4. Both of us were feeling the nerves out there but I love being in these positions and I was just glad I was able to do it for the team.”
Friday night had been all about Federer’s last competitive appearance but barely 12 hours after his tearful goodbye he was back on the Team Europe bench to offer support to his counterparts at the event he helped to create.
Berrettini had been drafted in to take the playing position of the Swiss great and proved a more than adequate replacement by continuing his dominance over Auger-Aliassime with a fourth win from their five meetings but only after another marathon contest between the duo.
The Italian had needed almost three hours to beat the young pretender at the Laver Cup in Boston last year and had to dig deep again to win 7-6 (11) 4-6 10-7 with his best tennis saved until the tie-breaker where a booming forehand winner, 132mph ace and sumptuous drop shot saw him home.
Federer had provided in-game coaching for the former Wimbledon finalist and the advice was gratefully received by the world number 15 after a memorable previous evening.
“Just really happy to be here and honoured to represent Team Europe instead of him in singles,” Berrettini said.
“Having the chances to, you know, live what we lived yesterday is something that’s going to be stuck in my heart and my brain forever.
“I’m not lying when I say that I’m here because of him. Like he was really the one that I was looking up to. He was the one that I was supporting, cheering for him. I was getting upset, I remember crying after he lost the finals in 2009 in Australia because he was crying.
“For me, living these moments is something really that means everything. It was tough to sleep. I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but at the same time I was really pumped to step in and give my best.
“I’m really happy obviously for the win, but I feel like this weekend we’re kind of celebrating something bigger than Laver Cup, than tennis. It’s just him.”