VANCOUVER — After another successful day at the Laver Cup international tennis tournament, Team World is entering uncharted territory: leading heading into the final day of the competition.
Team World took a 10-2 lead in the tournament on Saturday to put itself in the driver's seat.
Team Europe has won four of the previous five iterations of the Laver Cup, with Team World claiming its first win last year.
American Taylor Fritz started the day on a positive note for his team, beating Russian Andrey Rublev 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) to extend Team World's dominance in the three-day competition.
Fritz and Rublev traded aces back and forth, with each benefiting from a strong serve.
But Fritz dominated up close, winning 14 of his 77 total points at the net.
"I actually feel like the feel and touch shots are actually something that I've always done well, I've just never really used them enough," he said after his match. "You don't really get to see the half volleys because I don't come to the net that much so it catches people off."
Ex-NBA stars Dirk Nowitzki and Victoria's Steve Nash were in attendance on the second day of the competition, sitting beside tournament co-founder Roger Federer.
Matches on the first day of the competition were worth one point for a win while wins on the second day count for two. The first team to 13 points claims the title.
Team World vice-captain Patrick McEnroe downplayed his team's early success ahead of the final match day.
"You always have a chance going into the final day," he said. "So I think the most important thing, as Taylor said, is for each guy to play their match and focus on what they need to do."
Team Europe claimed its first win of the tournament with Casper Ruud dispatching American Tommy Paul 7-6 (6), 6-2.
"Hopefully we'll be stronger coming back," said Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg.
Ruud downplayed questions about pressure being placed on Team Europe due to trailing their world counterparts.
"In the end, of course we want to win," said the world No. 9. "Of course I felt pressure, but I had a great start.
"It was big. Like I said, (being down) 0-8 would not look nice but 2-6, there's a lot of matches left, a lot of tennis to be played."
American Frances Tiafoe, who has been seen cheering his teammates and offering advice throughout the tournament, won his tilt against Hubert Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3 to re-establish Team World's dominant lead.
Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime then teamed up with American Ben Shelton to defeat Gael Monfils of France and Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 7-5, 6-4, in doubles to extend Team World's lead at the end of the day.
The first day of the tournament featured mild controversy with Monfils being caught on a mic telling Borg that he "was here to have fun" and appeared frustrated by the referee's calls throughout the match.
Monfils, who fell to Auger-Aliassime on the opening day, put out a statement on social media on Saturday refuting questions about being unhappy to have to take part in the tournament.
"At 37 years old, I'm simply trying to make the most of every moment," he wrote in the statement. "When I was offered the opportunity to participate in the Laver Cup, I was honoured. Given my current ranking, being outside the top 100 at this age, I even thought it might be a joke. But I take this opportunity very seriously, for the event, for my team, and especially for myself.
"Travelling to Vancouver and leaving my family once again is not the simplest thing. But despite it all, I continue to pursue my profession with passion and sincerity, just as I have always done."
His opponent downplayed the comments after the match.
"It's competition. Things got a little bit heated in the moment with tension," said Auger-Aliassime when asked about Monfils' behaviour during the match.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press