On paper, the Bjorn Borg-led Team Europe is going to be tough to beat when Laver Cup play gets underway on Friday in Boston.
All six players are inside the Top 10 in the ATP rankings, after all, led by World No. 2 and newly crowned US Open champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia. John McEnroe’s Team World, meanwhile, ranges from No. 11 Felix Auger-Aliassime to No. 95 Nick Kyrgios.
But Captain Borg, undefeated in three Laver Cup showdowns since 2017, knows the title will have to be earned on the court.
“It’s going to be a tough competition,” said the Swede. “They have a great team, and I’m sure they are ready to try to beat us this time. Every match is important, because it’s always going to come down to Sunday.”
That was the case in 2019 in Geneva. Alexander Zverev defeated Canada’s Milos Raonic in the final match on Sunday, 6-4 3-6 10-4, carrying Team Europe to a narrow 13-11 victory.
Zverev, ranked No. 4, knows the fans could also factor into the proceedings. Team World will likely have the crowd on its side, given the presence of four North Americans on its roster: Americans John Isner and Reilly Opelka, and Canadians Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. Aussie Nick Kyrgios, a devout Boston Celtics supporter, brings plenty of border-crossing appeal, too.
“I think the stadium is going to be maybe against us a little bit,” said the German, the Olympic gold medalist this summer in Tokyo.
But we are who we are. We are six Top-10 players sitting here. A lot of us are in incredible form right now. We do know that we are the favorites. Everybody is looking forward to the challenge.
When the Laver Cup was played in Chicago in 2018, even fan-favorites like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at times found themselves out of favor.
“This is something that we are expecting,” said No. 3-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. “We’re going to fight against it and try and prove ourselves with our game. At the end of the day, our tennis is what counts the most.”
“I think it’s toughest when you’re not ready and everybody is against you,” said Medvedev. “That’s when you’re going to have problems. But we are all ready for it. We’re just going to try to win no matter what.”
Borg has rightly deemed his 2021 sextet “the future of tennis.” In addition to Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev, he’s got Rotterdam champion Andrey Rublev of Russia, Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini of Italy, and fast-rising 22-year-old Casper Ruud of Norway, who comes in at a career-high No. 10 and owns four titles on the year.
“These six players — I would hope that they know what they’re going do on the court,” he said. “I have confidence in all of six players. You have to give energy, but they know what to do. They know what to expect.”