A defining moment for Team Europe
Tennis analyst and 24-time Grand Slam doubles champion Todd Woodbridge assesses Team Europe’s Boston line-up.
We are witnessing a changing of the guard in tennis and this is the youngest Team Europe we have seen overall in four years of Laver Cup competition.
Looking back, Alexander Zverev has competed at every edition of the Laver Cup and was guided by teammates Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win at Geneva against Milos Raonic, and before that in Chicago, when he defeated Kevin Anderson 10-7 in the final match tiebreaker.
The German has been coached by two of the Greatest Of All Time teammates and taken everything he has learnt on board. He is now an Olympic champion and the most likely player to fill the role as ‘player leader’ for Team Europe. It’s a position he has been leading up to, as Sascha is by now a well-seasoned Laver Cup campaigner. Everything is about experience and getting better from the good and bad times on the court.
Sascha knows what it is like to feel the pressure of Laver Cup and has had some phenomenal experiences playing in captain Bjorn Borg’s team.
Four new players
The reigning US Open champion Daniil Medevev – fresh from an astonishing performance in New York- is a steely competitor and he will thrive in the Laver Cup environment. He will relish the type of gladiatorial environment that characterizes this event and, even though he has not competed for Team Europe before, he will be familiar – as will his teammates – with what to expect. Medvedev is good friends with Andrey Rublev, an aggressive competitor and another fresh addition to the blue team, with a consistent track record.
Also competing for the first time at Laver Cup is Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud. Berrettini brings his best year ever to Boston; he was a Wimbledon finalist and reached the quarterfinals of the US Open. Ruud has enjoyed a solid season, and been especially dynamic and brilliant on clay.
Now at a career-high No.10 in the rankings, he will have more of a challenge on hard court and this will be the biggest event that he has ever been involved in, including the majors. He hasn’t had that massive spotlight before, I expect his first test will come on Day 1 and he will need to prepare for the unique, electric atmosphere and considerable home ground crowd support for the opposition at TD Garden.
Riding the big points
The only other player to have experienced the Laver Cup is Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has achieved much since his debut in Geneva in 2019 and is now ranked No.3 in the world. The Laver Cup is made up of momentous moments in matches where it comes down to one or two points. These are the points that can change the whole environment and swing who is in control of the competition. For Tsitsipas, this is a great opportunity to grasp some of those big moments. He has come close to winning big titles this year, such as at Roland Garros. He will have more opportunities at the Laver Cup to take those winning moments, to feel how to use momentum and run with it.
Laver Cup points increase on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3. Team Europe has incredible depth in singles, all six players are inside the top 10. The most natural doubles pairing is the all-Russian duo of Rublev and Medvedev, they’ve got a connection going back to junior days. They compete well against each other, they have respect and they will have played doubles together.
Doubles is about gelling with personalities. Tsitsipas is the most natural all-court player in Team Europe with the best volleys, and I see him as potentially the lead doubles player. I like Berrettini and Tsitsipas as a combination. Berrettini has a huge serve and big forehand and needs a net man to intercept and take advantage of his weapons. That’s Tsitsipas. You don’t want people with the same style playing together. I would expect to see Tsitsipas playing multiple times, possibly with Medvedev.
Everyone has got to play a singles, and Zverev should play on Saturday and Sunday with Rublev, Berrettini and Ruud opening on Friday.
Of course, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg might have other ideas! He certainly has plenty of options with a team full of players who consistently reach the backend of tournaments. His greatest task will be to unify them as a team and establish doubles pairings that can withstand Team World’s solidarity. As Borg has stated, “The goal is to win.” He certainly has the talent to do just that and claim a fourth Laver Cup.
Each player competes in at least one singles match during the first two days of Laver Cup competition. No player can play singles more than twice during the three days. At least four of the six players must play doubles and no doubles combination is played more than once unless for the Decider on Day 3, of points are 12:12.
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