Best of frenemies: Nadal and Federer will be team-mates in Prague this weekend.
The inaugural Laver Cup will see a host of the world’s best male players take to the court at the O₂ arena in Prague, Czech Republic from September 22-24, 2017.
The brand new three-day tournament features a unique format that will bring some of the sport’s fiercest rivals together in a team environment.
Team Europe’s Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s rivalry is legendary, but at the Laver Cup they will cheer each other on from the sidelines and could pair up for one of the most eagerly-anticipated doubles match in tennis history.
Team World’s Jack Sock and Nick Kyrgios already share an off-court friendship, with Kyrgios recently joining Sock at his home in Kansas. This entertaining duo can’t wait to train together, support each other’s on-court battles from the player bench and potentially team up as an explosive doubles combination.
On paper, the teams seem to be lopsided with Team Europe featuring five of the world’s top-10, while Team World’s top-ranked player is No. 16 Sam Querrey. Rankings aside, the head-to-heads between both sides are quite telling with Kyrgios being the only Team World player that owns a positive combined head-to-head record against the members of Team Europe.
Here’s a look at the team line-ups and head-to-head figures:
Strategy and tactics from the team captains could also be a key to victory in the Laver Cup, with a unique line-up card exchange and scoring system:
• On Thursday, captains Björn Borg and John McEnroe will submit their lin-eup cards for Friday’s matches to the referee in a blind exchange, with match-ups revealed at a special on-court ceremony
• For days two and three, one captain will submit his card blind for the opposing captain to review before selecting his players
• Team Europe captain Borg will choose which day to seize the home advantage and submit his playing lineup after reviewing Team World’s selection
• Each match on Friday is worth one point, two points per match are up for grabs on Saturday, and three points for each match on the crucial deciding Sunday
• The first team to reach 13 points will win the inaugural Laver Cup, with a thrilling doubles decider played if the scores are tied at 12-all
“This is a unique scoring format that is totally new to tennis and will be exciting for both the players and fans,” Laver Cup Managing Director Steve Zacks explained. “I know every player is keen to be part of history and have their name engraved on the spectacular Laver Cup.”
Laver Cup fast facts
• The Laver Cup is a three-day tournament pitting a team of six of the best tennis players from Europe against six of their counterparts from the rest of the world
• For the first three years, Björn Borg will captain Team Europe and John McEnroe will lead Team World
• Thomas Enqvist will act as vice captain for Team Europe and Patrick McEnroe for Team World
• The tournament has been named in honor of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, the only man to win two calendar-year Grand Slams, and one of the greatest players of all time
• The unique format of the tournament will showcase tennis superstars competing on the same team, playing singles, pairing up in doubles and cheering each other from the sidelines
• The inaugural Laver Cup will be held at the O2 arena in Prague, Czech Republic, from September 22-24, 2017
• The location will rotate between major cities in Europe and the rest of the world each year
• The 2018 edition of the Laver Cup will take place in the United States
• The Laver Cup will be staged annually two weeks after the US Open, except in summer Olympic years.
Federer mania: Roger Federer has already touched down in Prague.
• Each team will comprise six players and be led by a team captain
• The competition will be played over three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday
• There will be five sessions, two on Friday and Saturday, and one on Sunday
• Four matches will be played daily, three singles and one doubles
• Both singles and doubles will be best-of-three sets with ad scoring, with the third set decided by a 10-point tiebreak in the event of split sets
• In the event of a tie after all 12 matches have been completed, a final overtime doubles match will be played as a regular set with ad scoring and a tiebreak
• Each player will play at least one singles match during the first two days
• No player will play singles more than twice during the three days
• At least four of the six players must play doubles
• Match-ups will be determined prior to each day of play through the exchange of lineup cards by the captains
• Each match win will be worth one point on Friday, two points on Saturday and three points on Sunday.
The Davis Cup semi-finals will take place this weekend with Belgium hosting Australia on indoor clay in Brussels while France host a Novak Djokovic-less Serbia in Lille on outdoor clay.
The Belgians are trying to reach their third Davis Cup final, and second in the last three years. They have lost their last two ties played on clay, to Great Britain in the 2015 Final and Croatia in the 2016 World Group first round.
They will be led by world No. 12 David Goffin who has won 13 of his last 14 Davis Cup singles rubbers. He has been hampered by physical problems recently though as he played with an injured left knee during the US Open.
Nick Kyrgios will be leading the Aussies in Brussels, with Lleyton Hewitt opting for John Millman as his second singles man instead of Thanasi Kokkinakis.
The Aussies are playing their second semi-final in three years.
France are playing their first final since they lost to Switzerland, also in Lille, in 2014. They face Serbia, who are trying to win their first tie on clay since 2013. The Serbs have lost their last two ties on the surface.
Here's a look at some key stats ahead of the action this weekend...
1 - Laslo Djere, of Serbia, could make his Davis Cup debut this weekend, having been nominated for the first time
1 - Belgium are the only team of the four semi-finalists to have never won Davis Cup
2 - Belgium are trying to reach their second Davis Cup final in three years
2 - The Aussies are second on the list for most Davis Cup titles, behind USA, with 28 triumphs
2 - Belgium have won their last two meetings against Australia (in 2010 and 2007) but they are tied 2-2 head-to-head
2 - France are facing Serbia for just the second time in Davis Cup. Serbia won their sole previous meeting
3 - years since Australia last played a Davis Cup tie on clay
3 - years since France last reached the Davis Cup final
3 - wins and 0 losses for Kyrgios against Goffin in their career head-to-head. They will be leading their nations this weekend in Brussels
3 - Belgium are making their third appearance in the semi-finals since the introduction of the World Group in 1981
3 - Lucas Pouille is trying to win just his third live rubber this weekend
4 - Kyrgios has won his last four Davis Cup rubbers. Hasn't lost one since the World Group quarter-finals in 2015
4 - years since Serbia last made the Davis Cup semi-finals
6 - France have won six of their last seven home ties
7 - years since Serbia beat France in the Davis Cup final
9 - times France have won Davis Cup
10 - comebacks from 0-2 down ever completed in World Group ties
14 - years since Australia last won Davis Cup
15 - nations in total have won the Davis Cup before
18 - France are trying to reach their 18th Davis Cup final
Noah’s team are favoured to progress to the final against a Serbian side sorely missing injured former world No. 1 and 12-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic.
But Pouille insisted despite their rankings superiority the semi-final was no foregone conclusion for France.
“We are not over confident, we’ve got an enormous amount of respect for this team which has a lot of very good players,” said Pouille, who was beaten in the fourth round at the US Open.
NO EXHIBITION MATCH
A similar note of caution was sounded by Noah ahead of the tie being held on the same clay where France lost the 2014 final to Roger Federer’s Switzerland.
“We are sufficiently intelligent to know that it’s going to be a difficult match,” the 1983 French Open winner said.
“Even if their players aren’t at the top of the rankings they’ve got nothing to lose. We won’t be playing an exhibition match this weekend.”
Serbia won their sole Davis Cup title in 2010, beating France in Belgrade 3-2.
France, who secured their ticket to the semi-finals after seeing off Great Britain 4-1 in the last eight, are seeking a 10th title but first in 16 years.
Steve Darcis and Nick Kyrgios.
In Brussels, Belgium’s David Goffin (ranked 12 in the world) will be out to embellish his phenomenal record in the competition against 185th ranked Australian John Millman.
Millman’s appearance in the opening singles represented a surprise with the slot expected to go to Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Aussie coach Lleyton Hewitt explained the switch, telling the Davis Cup’s official website: “John is match hardened, he’s played a lot of five-set tennis, particularly in New York. We have full belief in that he can do the job for us.”
Goffin, ranked No. 12 in the world, has won 13 of his 14 Davis Cup matches, the lone loss coming in the 2015 final to Britain’s Andy Murray.
Belgian’s medical team have been working round the clock to ensure Goffin’s presence after the Belgian star injured his left knee at the US Open.
“I feel good, everything’s OK,” Goffin told Belgian radio RTBF. “My knee hurt after the US Open, but day by day it got better so I told (coach) Johan Van Herck that I was 100 per cent available for the team.”
Goffin, the ninth seed in New York, was stunned by Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the fourth round.
Next up on the indoor clay court in the Belgian capital is Australia’s gifted but combustible Nick Kyrgios (20th) who faces 33-year-old Steve Darcis (77).
Kyrgios, who helped Australia beat the United States in the quarters, was picked by Hewitt despite his first round exit at Flushing Meadows.
The victorious semi-finalists will meet in the 2017 final scheduled for the end of November.