Leading into the 6th edition of the Laver Cup in Vancouver, Captain John McEnroe’s selection options were bright as he prepared for Team World’s defense of the title.
A succession of players eligible to represent the host side experienced breakout seasons in 2023 en route to September‘s showdown against Team Europe, captained by McEnroe’s long-time rival Bjorn Borg.
In February, Taylor Fritz became the first American man to be ranked inside the Top 5 since Andy Roddick in September 2009, adding two more titles at Delray Beach and Atlanta.
His good friend Tommy Paul also started the season in peak form when he reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and later achieved a career-high No.13 ranking after knocking out world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of the ATP Masters 1000 in Toronto. An alternate at Laver Cup London 2022, Paul suited up for a place on McEnroe’s six-man team 12 months later and won the opening night’s doubles partnering with Frances Tiafoe.
Tiafoe captured titles on clay (Houston) and grass (Stuttgart) for his first-ever spot in the Top 10. Ahead of his fourth appearance with Team World in Vancouver, Tiafoe reached the quarterfinals of the US Open along with Fritz, Paul, and explosive newcomer Ben Shelton, 21, who eliminated Big Foe in the final eight at Flushing Meadows.
Shelton’s dialed in debut
Shelton proved to be one of the most talked about young stars of 2023 after advancing to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on his first trip outside the US. A 2021 and 2022 NCAA champion for the University of Florida, Shelton’s run to the US Open semis convinced many that he was ripe for the big stage and a future Grand Slam champion.
McEnroe introduced Shelton and top-ranked Argentine Francisco Cerundolo to his Team World 2023 fold, joining defending champions Fritz, Tiafoe, Paul, and hometown hero Felix Auger-Aliassime in Canada.
As it turned out, Shelton didn’t lose a match in Vancouver, relishing the team environment and contributing six points to Team World’s 13-2 victory. The momentum continued post-Laver Cup, as Shelton captured his first ATP Tour 500 title in Tokyo and moved to a career-high No.15.
Farewell to Sock and Isner
Meanwhile, long-time Team World representatives Jack Sock and John Isner bid farewell to professional tennis at the US Open. “Tennis has been a huge part of my life,” said father of four Isner, who achieved a career-high singles ranking of No.8 in 2018 and won 16 ATP singles titles. “It’s tough to say goodbye.” Isner had been a regular Team World player from 2017-2021 and was dubbed “the spiritual leader” of the team by McEnroe.
Sock, whose first child Brody Bryan Sock with wife Laura was born on November 14, was a three-time Grand Slam men’s doubles champion and rose to No.8 in singles after winning the Paris Masters 1000 in 2017. His record included topping the all-time Laver Cup leaderboard, with 20 points gained over singles and doubles since the competition began in 2017.
Rublev and Hurkacz climb high, Ruud excels at Roland Garros
Despite Team Europe’s loss in Vancouver, Andrey Rublev returned to No.5 on the back of a consistent season that saw him reach quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. He added two more titles to his 14-crown haul, including a first-ever ATP Masters 1000 at Monte Carlo where he outlasted young rival Holger Rune.
After representing Team Europe for a second time in Vancouver, Rublev narrowly fell to Laver Cup teammate Hubert Hurkacz in the championship match at the Shanghai Rolex Masters in October, paving the way for the popular Pole to re-enter the Top 10. Earlier in the clay-court season, three-time Team Europe representative Casper Ruud reached the final at Roland Garros for a second consecutive year, stopped by nemesis Novak Djokovic in the championship match.
Borg’s Berlin mission
After relinquishing the Cup to Team World for a second year, Borg vowed to reclaim the title next September at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. As the 11-time Grand Slam singles champion stated, “No one likes to lose.” Victors at Prague (2017), Chicago (2018), Geneva (2019) and Boston (2021), Borg promptly named Wimbledon 2023 champion Carlos Alcaraz to his 2024 lineup. “We will definitely bring back the Cup,” he proclaimed in Vancouver. “It’s going to stay in Europe next year. It’s going to be completely different, it’s our home court. We look forward to that.”