Laver Cup’s Unique Format Will Keep Things Lively If Not Memorable

Laver Cup

WASHINGTON, September 19, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

The 2019 Laver Cup, which begins Friday afternoon at Palexpo in Geneva, offers a unique format that is designed to keep things lively if not memorable. It’s also designed to make tennis fun.

Each day of competition includes three singles matches and one doubles match. Both singles and doubles are best-of-three sets with ad scoring. In the event of split sets, the third set is contested as a 10-point match tiebreak.

During Friday’s opening day, teams can win a point with each victory. Thursday afternoon, team captains John McEnroe (Team World) and Bjorn Borg (Team Europe) revealed their first-day lineups.

Denis Shapovalov of Team World will face Dominic Thiem of Team Europe in the opening match of the Laver Cup at 1 p.m., followed by Jack Sock (Team World) versus Fabio Fognini (Team Europe). Friday’s 7 p.m. night session begins with Taylor Fritz (Team World) facing Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe), then finishes with Shapovalov and Sock (Team World) taking on Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev (Team Europe) in doubles.

During Saturday’s second day of competition, each match is worth two points. On the final day Sunday, three points are awarded for each win. If points are tied at 12-all, a doubles set with ad-scoring and a tiebreak will decide the Laver Cup Champion. To win the Laver Cup, the winning team must garner at least 13 points.

Two years ago in Prague, Federer and Rafael Nadal teamed in doubles, which drew a lot of attention. During Thursday’s pre-Laver Cup press conference, Borg was asked if the two tennis titans might reunite in Geneva. “Well, so far that’s the only doubles we won so far in the previous years,” he said.

It prompted Federer to quip “What?”

As Borg explained, “It’s a good possibility. We have a lot of players here. So, we are talking about it, who is going to play doubles. Doubles is very important every day. I mean, especially, you know, to get those points even in the doubles. But, it’s a good possibility they can play.”

“We need to improve that record!” said Federer, who will have a chance when he partners with Zverev Friday night.

“We have to improve our record in the doubles,” said Borg. “We have to win a few doubles this time, this weekend.”

When it was McEnroe’s turn to speak, he had plenty to say about Team World and its underdog status. “We are looking forward to it. This is a great event and a great format I believe for our team,” he said.

“We have been very close, obviously. So close, yet so far. It would be awesome this time if we’re going to get over the hump, get a little luck going our way and step up.”

Team World’s Nick Kyrgios, mercurial when he’s alone on court, loves the team environment and seems to thrive on its passion.

“As John said, we’ve been so close the last two years. But I think the way we come together as a group, our chemistry is much better than Team Europe’s. You know, that gives us a good shot.

“Every year, I think we are out there watching each other play the entire time. I know personally I enjoy seeing my teammates out there. I know these guys feed off energy, as well, I think as a group we come together.

“It’s a lot of fun, as well. This is definitely one of my favorite weeks of the year.”

Fritz, who is making his Laver Cup debut, said he’s excited for his opening night match against Tsitsipas. “I love the energy of being with all of these guys and being around the team environment. I really love it. It’s a great opportunity for me to be here, a privilege to be here on this team.”

By the rules

Among the Laver Cup rules: Each player must play at least one singles match during the first two days. 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 can be used more than once, unless for the decider on Day 3, if points are 12-all. The matchups will be determined prior to the first match each day through the exchange of lineup cards by the captains.

By the numbers

Looking back, Team World did not win an opening-day singles match in the first two Laver Cup events, in 2017 and 2018, and ultimately went on to lose both competitions to Team Europe. Team Europe won the inaugural 2017 Laver Cup competition 15-9, and also won last year’s event 13-8.

What they’re saying

• Roger Federer on Rafael Nadal’s recent US Open title: “I’m generally happy for Rafa for winning in New York and winning all the other ones that he has and all the Frenches he’s won.

“It’s just a massive respect I have for Rafa, what he’s done, and Bjorn, what he’s done at the Grand Slam level. Djokovic, Sampras, you name it. These are things you can’t really control other than when you face each other you try to stop the other guy, but that’s also not the point. The point is try to win for yourself and your fans, your team and everything, and to try to have your best career.”

• Stefanos Tsitsipas, on playing in his first Laver Cup for Team Europe: “It’s an honor joining such important players in our era, being part of this unique celebration, I would call it, celebrating tennis, celebrating the two different continents, for example, the rest of the The World and Team Europe, getting the opportunity to face each other, prove to one another who’s better. … I think there is plenty of good tennis to be played, and people obviously expect a show and we’re here to give it to them.”