Picture perfect: Players, captains gather in Vancouver
With a dramatic backdrop of the North Shore Mountains, and seaplanes buzzing in and out of the harbor, players and captains gathered outside the Vancouver Convention Centre on Wednesday afternoon for what’s become a cherished annual tradition: The Laver Cup’s Team Europe and Team World photos.
There were familiar faces in those spiffy suits: Opposing captains Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, and, of course, tournament namesake Rod Laver.
There were Laver Cup veterans like Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Milos Raonic and Andrey Rublev. But there was some new blood mixed in there, too.
“It’s exciting that you’re seeing fresh faces on our side, maybe even more so on their side,” said Team World Vice-Captain Patrick McEnroe.
“They’ve got Top-10 players, but they’ve also got guys like Gael Monfils, who’s going to bring a lot to the table, and Arthur Fils, who’s a young guy. It’s fun. You’re seeing the diversity of athletes, of players getting into the Laver Cup more and more. That just helps grow the event and grow the sport.”
The tournament, founded in 2017, has some added significance this year for Raonic. Not only is the 32-year-old power-server playing on home turf in Canada, he’s relishing the opportunity to be back in the fold after missing the better part of two years due to a series of injuries.
“To have Canadian tennis be at the place where it’s considered for these kinds of events is a massive tribute to how far Canadian tennis has come, the exposure of tennis in Canada, and the passion for it. All these things are incredible,” he said.
“I love that I have a chance to be a part of it, especially after what I’ve gone through in the last two years. I get to do it alongside teammates, and John and Patrick, as well. I’m looking forward to it.”
For the first-timer Fils, it’s a reward for all he has accomplished in such a short window. The 19-year-old Frenchman opened the year at No. 251 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He’s since captured his first tour-level title (Lyon), and reached the semifinals at three other events, including the ATP 500 on clay in Hamburg. Now he’s the youngest member of the Top 50 at No. 44.
“It’s something incredible,” said Fils. “I’ve been watching this on TV for three or four years, and now I’m part of it. It’s a big experience to be close to all these great players.”
Fresh off a breakout performance at the US Open, where he reached first major semifinal, Ben Shelton is also getting his first taste of the Laver Cup life, as is countryman Christopher Eubanks. They’re joining fellow Americans Fritz, Tiafoe and Tommy Paul on Team World.
“It’s a great team, and we’re all really close friends, so it’s exciting to be playing for the same side. Hopefully, we bring the energy, get the win, and we can celebrate together again,” said Fritz, part of the defending champion Team World lineup that triumphed in London in 2022.