A protester set fire to his arm at the Laver Cup in London Photo: AFP
tennis

Tsitsipas shrugs off fiery Laver Cup protest to give Europe 2-0 lead

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By John WEAVER

Stefanos Tsitsipas shrugged off a dramatic on-court protest by a demonstrator who set his arm ablaze to give Team Europe a 2-0 lead against Team World at the Laver Cup on Friday.

The Greek world number six crushed Argentina's Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 at London's O2 Arena following a tight opening win for Norway's Casper Ruud against Jack Sock.

Tsitsipas clinched the first set 6-2 before, during the changeover, a spectator ran on to the court and set his arm on fire.

The protestor, who was wearing a T-shirt that read "End UK Private Jets", was quickly dragged off the court after water had been poured on his burning arm.

After a brief delay the match resumed, with Tsitsipas looking untroubled.

Tsitsipas, overpowering the Argentine with his brutal forehand, struck 17 winners and committed just six unforced errors to seal victory in 77 minutes.

"It came out of nowhere," Tsitsipas said. "I have no idea what this is all about. I never had an incident like this happen on court. I hope he is all right."

Laver Cup organizers issued a statement on the incident that disrupted the match.

"A man accessed the court this afternoon and was promptly removed by security," they said. "Play was stopped briefly. He has been arrested and the situation is being handled by the police."

Earlier, Ruud edged out Sock 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 to put Europe 1-0 up after a close-fought opening match.

World number two Ruud initially proved too strong for the American, but Sock got back on level terms and forced a match tie-break.

Ruud recovered from trailing 3-0 to triumph, much to the delight of the packed crowd and his watching team-mates, with a fine forehand winner clinching the first point of the Ryder Cup-style team competition.

In the evening session, a tearful Roger Federer said he had been on an "amazing journey" after the final match of his outstanding tennis career ended in a defeat partnering long-time rival Rafael Nadal in a doubles match in the early hours of Saturday.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, 41, and Nadal, playing for Team Europe, went down 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 9-11 against Team World's Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock.

"We'll get through this somehow," said Federer while being interviewed on court at London's O2 Arena by fellow Grand Slam winner Jim Courier.

"It's been a wonderful day," added the Swiss star, playing for the first time since Wimbledon 2021 because of a knee injury. "I told the guys I'm happy, not sad. It feels great to be here. I enjoyed tying my shoelaces one more, every thing was the last time.

"I didn't feel the stress so much even though I thought maybe something was going to go, like a calf, but the match was great. Playing with Rafa and having all the greats here, all the legends, thank you."

Having paid tribute to his wife and parents for their support, Federer added: "It does feel like a celebration...It's been an amazing journey."

The Laver Cup features two six-man teams playing singles and doubles matches over three days.

Italy's Matteo Berrettini will take Federer's place over the weekend as an alternate.

© 2022 AFP

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


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