This upcoming weekend, starting on Friday September 21st, all tennis-devoted eyes will be on the second annual Laver Cup in Chicago. The Laver Cup, a tournament that was played for the first time last year, has brought tennis fans a Davis-Cup-style team competition, with the best players of the world. The action-packed tournament has delivered some unimaginable sights, like that of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal sharing a court in a doubles match, Nick Kyrgios shedding tears after losing a deciding tiebreak to Federer, and many other spectacular sights. What will this year’s Laver Cup bring us? Let’s take a look.
Last year, Team Europe played host and welcomed Team World to the O2 Arena in Prague. This year, it is Team World’s turn to host the tournament and they have picked the United Center as the venue. The arena, which is basketball-oriented, is located in Chicago and is where Michael Jordan once showcased his craft to the world. At full capacity the arena fits 23,500 souls, making it one of the largest arenas for tennis. To adapt to the Laver Cup, the arena obviously had to endure some changes. The most notable one is creating the tennis court. The black court is a one-of-a-kind court that was also used in last year’s Laver Cup. The idea of creating a black court is to give the spectators and the players a better chance at seeing the ball. When it was initially tested by Federer and Berdych back in 2017, the two had nothing but compliments for it. The black court was a success in 2017, and, therefore, has made it’s way to Chicago. The United Center seems to be ready for a great weekend of tennis.
Team Europe is captained, for the second straight year, by Bjorn Borg. The role of the captain is to select two players (captain’s pick), select the playing order, and guide the team as a coach throughout the tournament. Tennis knowledge is absolutely not lacking for Team Europe’s captain. An 11-time Grand Slam champion, Bjorn Borg is no stranger to winning. Luckily for Team World however, Borg is well past his prime and won’t be suiting up this weekend.
The news does not get much better beyond that. Team Europe has brought out the best of tennis to this year’s Laver Cup. The team consist of: Roger Federer (2), Novak Djokovic (3), Alexander Zverev (5), Grigor Dimitrov (7), David Goffin (11), and Kyle Edmund (16). The whole of Team Europe ranks within the top 16. Kyle Edmund is the “weakest” of the bunch and he is the 16th ranked player in the world. Moreover, between Federer and Djokovic alone, you have two of the best players in history, one fresh off back-to-back Grand Slam victories. This makes Team Europe the absolute favorites. The only thing going against them would probably be the crowd. The Davis-Cup-like atmosphere might distract these stars from sticking to their game. But like all tennis fans know, are Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic ever really playing without crowd support?
Team World is led, also for the second straight year, by the McEnroe brothers. John will serve as the captain while Patrick will be his vice-captain. What John brings to the table that Borg doesn’t, is his Davis Cup experience. Although he does not have as many Grand Slams as his counterpart (he “only” has seven), he has a whopping five Davis Cup titles under his belt! Since this is a Davis Cup style tournament, McEnroe is the perfect coach to bring this underdog the title.
Besides their captain, Team World does not have much “big win” experience. Their biggest win amongst the bunch might be the 2016 Davis Cup title Diego Schwartzman earned in 2016 with Argentina. Besides that, Kevin Anderson has two Grand Slam finals under his belt, but both were losses. What Team World has going for them, is the fire power of a very young and hungry squad. With number four ranked Del Potro’s last minute withdrawal, the line-up for team world is: Kevin Anderson (9), John Isner (10), Diego Schwartzman (14), Jack Sock (17), Nick Kyrgios (27) and Frances Tiafoe (40). By slimply looking at the rankings, this Laver Cup is already over. But it is worth noting that the average age of Team World is just over 25 years old while Team Europe’s average is just over 28 years old. This means that the young guns like Tiafoe and showmen like Kyrgios will have to put together fiery performances early to get the crowd engaged and have the 23,500 spectators at the United Center become a factor.
Watching Team World host Team Europe this weekend will be an absolute treat that we have not been accustomed to seeing, yet. Hopefully the Laver Cup lives up to the hype and becomes an annual tradition for years to come. Seeing the top players in the world compete together in a team environment is a treat to fans of the sport world-wide. Who do you think will take this years Laver Cup?