LAVER CUP: The Laver Cup is an international tennis tournament which pits Team Europe against Team World, essentially tennis’ version of the Ryder Cup. 2023 plays host to the sixth edition of the tournament played on indoor hard courts, with this year’s action coming from Vancouver, Canada.
The Laver Cup format
With six players on each team, three will have earned their places based on their ATP singles rankings, whilst their other three team members will be captain’s picks. This year’s captains are Björn Borg for Team Europe, and John McEnroe for Team World.
12 matches will be played in total over three days, with nine singles matches and three doubles matches. There are four matches on each day and on day one matches are worth one point, then two points on the following day, with the final day’s matches all worth three points. The winner is the team that reaches 13 points first.
Team World – Defending champions
Under the captaincy of John McEnroe, one thing that is for sure is Team World will have as good a fighting spirit as any team, and with a six-man squad bursting at the seams with talent they will be more than confident in their chances of retaining the title.
Team World boast a largely US-based contingent, with all six of their players ranking 21st in the world or higher, with Taylor Fritz being the highest ranked player on the team (eighth).
Fritz will head the Team World charge as one of four Americans on the team having had his best year to date on the ATP Tour. Fritz has won two Tour titles this year, both of which came on North American hard courts.
He is joined by three other Americans in Francis Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton. Tiafoe is the highest ranking of the trio in 11th, with the other two 13th and 19th respectively. Tiafoe played a vital role last year as Team World beat a stacked Team Europe, as he picked up four points from his three matches.
Ben Shelton has only recently caught the headlines after his stellar performances at the Australian and US Open, reaching the semi-finals at the latter where he lost out to Novak Djokovic. Shelton also impressed in the US Open doubles and he will be hoping to slam the phone down on Team Europe this year.
The two non-US representatives and Felix Auger-Aliassime who has struggled with form and injuries this year, but will be hoping to draw on his inspired 6 point-winning performance at last year’s Laver Cup to lead his side to a successful title defence. He is joined by Argentinian Laver Cup debutant Francisco Cerúndolo who will be hoping that he can contribute to a maiden Laver Cup victory for himself, and a successful title defence for Team World.
Team Europe – Perfect blend of youth and experience
Team Europe find themselves highly affected by the Davis Cup as many of their big names are missing. Last year they boasted a star-studded line-up with all of the big four, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray playing their part.
This year, Björn Borg is without the likes of Djokovic, Federer, Murray or Nadal, whilst Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune are also all vacant. With many of the big names out, Team Europe consists of two top 10 players, with another two inside the top 25, and two Frenchmen ranking inside the top 40 rounding out the fifth and sixth positions.
The two top ten players are Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud. The weight of Team Europe is being rested on some younger shoulders here as Rublev and Ruud are aged 25 and 24 respectively, but both have a plethora of experience. Rublev has never before played in the Laver Cup but he reached the quarter-finals of both hard court Grand Slams this season so is certainly not one to be overlooked. Ruud, however, has a solid Laver Cup record having played two matches, winning both.
In the middle order are 16th ranked Hubert Hurkacz and world number 25 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Hurkacz is not necessarily a household name but he has come on leaps and bounds this year. Earlier in the year he achieved his best result at the Australian Open as he reached the fourth round, which he followed up with a sixth ATP Tour title as he won the Open 13 on hard court in France. Davidovich Fokina hasn’t had a year to write home about but has still put in some notable performances. He reached his first ever ATP Masters semifinal earlier in the year and most recently defeated Team World’s Francisco Cerúndolo at the US Open.
He also makes for an interesting doubles partner as his shorter stature and high acceleration make him a good match for those who are taller and possess more power.
French duo Gaël Monfils and Arthur Fils, who rank 35th and 44th in the world respectively, make up the fifth and sixth spots on Team Europe. Monfils’ world ranking is technically 142 but due to the protected ranking system he currently maintains 35th spot. Monfils is certainly not in his prime anymore but his wealth of experience could be vital in such a young European team, and he will be increasingly driven by the prospect of playing in his first Laver Cup at the age of 37. At the other end of the spectrum is his fellow countryman Arthur Fils who is just 19 years old. Fils won his first ATP Tour title earlier this year, but with a Junior French Open doubles title to his name so he could prove effective in the doubles matches. Should he and Monfils be paired together in the doubles it would make for a brilliant watch as two generations collide.
Team Europe may not look the likely winners on favourites but they will hope their strong team spirit and blend of youth and experience can help them to snatch the title back from Team World who will certainly fancy their chances this year.