Inside Team World: “100% serious” about taking the Cup
John Isner spoke for Team World when he passionately described himself as “100% serious” about taking the Laver Cup trophy away from Team Europe.
Commitment was the theme from both players and captain on the home side as the opening day’s matches were revealed, and practice stepped up a level at the United Center.
They might be the outsiders in terms of rankings and titles, but four of the six players on Team World suffered defeat in Prague last year and the experience clearly stung them.
“I second that,” said Jack Sock as he backed up fellow American Isner, while Nick Kyrgios was equally committed to the cause.
Last year was heartbreaking – Nick Kyrgios
“Last year was heartbreaking,” said the Australian.
“I don’t normally shed tears, but as soon as I lost last year it was the first thing that happened, so I’m going to do everything I can.
“If someone needs me to be out there picking up balls while they’re practising, I’m going to be doing that. I’ll do everything for the team this week, it’s not hard for me at all.”
Team World captain John McEnroe led by example during Thursday practice at the United Center, leaping around to catch balls, stepping onto the baseline to coach Diego Schwartzman mid-rally, and eventually wielding a racket himself against a Kevin Anderson serve – and groaning as the South African followed up with a deft half-volley winner.
Vice-captain Patrick McEnroe said he already feels the same sense of focus and camaraderie as last year in Prague.
“From the moment that everybody stepped on the court it was 100%, full out,” he said.
“Guys were having fun, they were into it and it was full-out tennis. For me to be here is amazing and we’re going to enjoy it, but number one is we’re going to win that Laver Cup.”
Sock unfazed by facing Federer and Djokovic
The day one matches have been confirmed and the unexpected move came from Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg in pairing Roger Federer with Novak Djokovic for the first doubles contest.
“The only surprise that Patrick and I saw was they’re throwing those nobodies out in doubles tomorrow night,” said a smiling John McEnroe.
“There is the opportunity that it would be sort of tricky, and there’s also the chance that they are going to be incredible.
“You’re talking about two of the four or five greatest players that ever played tennis on the same court. Just from that standpoint alone, it will be extremely interesting to check it out.”
There will be 34 Grand Slam titles together on one side of the net, albeit singles titles, and the doubles expertise of Sock alongside Anderson’s huge serving means it is a point that Team World believe is there for the taking.
Sock had a similar experience 12 months ago when he and Sam Querrey lost narrowly to the equally daunting pairing of Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“I’ll probably take a lot of that away,” said Sock. “Even though we’re the home team, I’m sure they will have a lot of fans cheering for them tomorrow night while they are playing together.
“I trust my abilities out there and teaming up with Kevin who has a monstrous serve, great return, good hands. Hopefully get a ‘W’ for the team.”
Team World ready to rule the sidelines
They might not be defending the trophy but Team World are defending their reputation as the more enthusiastic and imaginative when it comes to courtside support.
“We’re sure not going to be boring like Team Europe,” said Kyrgios, happy to stir the pot, while Isner added: “We definitely bring that better than they do.”
And after Djokovic conceded on Wednesday that the opposition are likely to be the more impressive on the courtside sofas, Federer made it clear that Team World are not the only ones with their eyes firmly set on the prize.
“I’m actually excited to see what they’re going to do,” said the Swiss.
“We have new team members. It’s just Sascha [Zverev] and myself from last year, so we know how to handle their antics. But honestly, it was great camaraderie after all.
“We’ll see what we do or not. But I think we are here to win, really, to be honest.”