Inside Team Europe: Sizing up the opposition
Roger Federer has identified the doubles as crucial to Team Europe’s hopes of retaining the Laver Cup, and confirmed that a partnership with Novak Djokovic is being considered.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion successfully teamed up with Rafael Nadal last year to earn Team Europe a vital win on day two.
“I think the doubles will be really crucial, as we saw last year,” said Federer.
“I think they [Team World] are, unfortunately, the favorites for all three matches in the doubles.
“This is where we have to come up with a couple of super teams ourselves, as singles players melt together and say, ‘How are we going to do that?’”
One answer could be a first partnership between Federer and 14-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic.
I would like to play with Novak. I hope he feels the same way – Roger Federer
“I would like to play with Novak,” said the Swiss. “I hope he feels the same way. We’re figuring it out as we speak, I think, internally, like, what are the best teams? Because we have a lot of singles guys on the team.”
A smiling Federer added: “I haven’t played doubles since last year, so I’m firing. I won my match last year. I feel like I’m really confident from that match still.”
Djokovic excited to be team player
Both teams got their first experience of the United Center on Wednesday with their opening practice sessions at the historic venue, home to the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Such is Federer’s confidence that there was even time for a surprising offer to opposing captain John McEnroe.
“We will be practicing our doubles this afternoon, John, in case you want to come watch that?” said Federer.
“Is that okay?” responded McEnroe. “Yeah, I’d like to. What time?”
The American legend is well aware that his side will be facing a very different Djokovic to the one who watched last year’s Laver Cup on TV as he recovered from injury.
“We noticed Novak, at Wimbledon and the US Open, seemed to be struggling with his return,” joked the Team World captain.
Djokovic has re-established himself among the game’s elite with back-to-back wins at Wimbledon and the US Open, and is now ready to try and add a first Laver Cup triumph.
“I was watching it on the TV last year and it was very exciting to see a new concept,” said the Serb, who received a rapturous welcome and stuck around for selfies when the players were presented to Chicagoans at the Pritzker Pavilion in the heart of downtown.
“To see many of the guys that shared rivalries throughout their careers, like Roger and Rafa, for example, playing on the same side of the courts, supporting each other.
“It’s great to see a concept like this in this format working well, and I obviously wanted to be a part of this and have this great experience.”
Borg ready for ‘most important week’
Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg is determined to keep hold of the Cup and fully expects to continue battling for the trophy in the years to come.
The Swede, a five-time Wimbledon and six-time French Open champion, guided the blue side to victory in Prague 12 months ago and has another star-studded lineup to call upon in Chicago.
“I’m very happy to have such a great team this year,” said Borg.
“Even Team World has an unbelievable team, so I think it’s going to be very exciting matches. Looking forward going into the weekend. It’s, for me, it’s an unbelievable – it’s a pleasure and exciting.
Spending time and being around the best players in the world, it’s a great thing – Bjorn Borg
“This year, the most important week for me is this week, personally, because spending time and being around the best players in the world, it’s a great thing. I believe that this event, Laver Cup, will stay forever. It’s a huge thing. Everybody enjoyed it. It’s going to be for many, many more years to come.”