Our Andy Schooler previews the annual Laver Cup clash between Team World and Team Europe, which gets under way in Boston on Friday.
1pt Team World to win the Laver Cup at 12/5 (Unibet)
1pt John Isner to be top Team World points-scorer at 7/1 (Betfred)
0.5pt John Isner to be top tournament points-scorer at 25/1 (Betfred)
1pt Alex Zverev to be Team Europe points-scorer at 100/30 (Betfred)
When the concept of the Laver Cup was first raised, it was immediately dubbed the ‘Ryder Cup of tennis’.
What wouldn’t have been envisaged was playing it alongside golf’s showpiece event and a dates clash for this year’s events cannot be good for the tennis one in terms of attracting the general sports fan.
Still, the Team World v Team Europe clash – taking place at the TD Garden in Boston – does promise much, with 10 of the world’s top 20 present.
Too often labelled a glorified exhibition, the three previous editions have actually provided hard-fought, competitive matches, while it’s now an official ATP Tour event.
Let’s take a closer look…
Two teams – one from Europe, one from the rest of the world – will play 12 rubbers over three days.
Each day will be made up of three singles and one doubles.
The controversial points system awards one point for wins on Friday, two points for Saturday victories and three points for matches won on the last day, Sunday.
This ensures the outcome cannot be decided before the final day.
There are some key selection rules.
Every player must play singles on either day one or two, a rule which usually results in the three weakest singles players being picked on Friday, leaving the better ones to compete for twice the number of points the following day.
As a result, a player can only play in two singles matches across the tournament.
Four of the six team members must appear in doubles and no pairing can play more than once.
The first team to 13 points is the winner. If the tie ends 12-12 then the trophy will be decided by an ‘overtime’ doubles set.
The star player during the recent North American hardcourt season, one which culminated with the Russian being crowned US Open champion. Knows how to win indoors too.
Had generally been playing well but suffered a shock loss to young gun Carlos Alcaraz in the third round of the US Open. Has spent time off in London (the Laver Cup venue in 2022) since.
A Laver Cup stalwart and one with a strong tournament record. In good form too following Masters success in Cincinnati and a run to the semi-finals of the US Open. Off-court problems remain though.
Runner-up in Cincinnati last month before being upset by Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Decent doubles player so could play a key role in that format.
Struggled with a thigh injury post-Wimbledon but looked back to his best at the US Open where he made the last eight. Big serve a weapon in slick indoor conditions.
More at home on clay where most of his ranking points have been earned. However, got used to indoor conditions in Davis Cup last weekend. Still, likely to be a bit-part player here.
Going solely on ranking, the Laver Cup is Europe’s to lose.
They have six of the world’s top 10 in their team – every player ranked higher than Team World’s number one.
However, one area they trail in is experience. They have four debutants this year with only Zverev and Tsitsipas having played this team event before.
Zverev looks set to play a key role – he’s been an ever-present and won six of his eight Laver Cup matches, collecting 13 points from a possible 18.
With no Roger Federer to lead this year, expect the German, who has a strong record indoors, to take up the reins.
US Open champion Daniil Medvedev arrives in good form, although he’s been on holiday since his New York triumph. Tsitsipas and Rublev have also taken time out.
Casper Ruud didn’t. He was playing Davis Cup indoors last weekend for Norway (winning both matches against Uzbekistan). Still, given the talent in the team, it’s not difficult to envisage Ruud playing only on the opening day – a pattern we’ve seen with Dominic Thiem, Kyle Edmund and Fabio Fognini for the Bjorn Borg-led Europe in previous Laver Cups.
I’d expect Rublev to play doubles at some stage – he’s not been picked for the day one rubber - but there’s not a lot of expertise in that format in the team.
In strong form following a run to the semi-finals of the US Open, one which means he’s Team World’s top-ranked player this week.
Helped Canada reach the 2019 Davis Cup final so, despite a poor Laver Cup record, he has shown he can thrive in team events. Form hasn’t been great (2 wins, 4 losses) since making the Wimbledon semis though.
Was back on clay last weekend when playing for Argentina in the Davis Cup – and he suffered a shock loss. Has said the court suits him but still looks likely to be relegated to largely a cheerleading role.
Big server capable of causing damage on any surface. Won indoors in New York in 2019 and made the final in Toronto recently.
Has played on every World team at the Laver Cup and won more than he’s lost. Another huge server who will be difficult to return against here.
No form to speak of and clearly his Laver Cup record has played a big part in the Aussie’s selection. Does seem to love the team environment though.
With two ever-presents (Isner, Kyrgios) in the team and two others who have played Laver Cup before, Team World have the edge in terms of tournament experience.
They’ll also have the home-crowd advantage.
Isner and Kyrgios have certainly seemed to thrive in the team atmosphere in the past but they will likely need that spark again, certainly Kyrgios who arrives having played little in 2021. The Australian went 1-4 during the recent North American hardcourt season so his inclusion by captain John McEnroe is very much based on how he’s played at the Laver Cup before.
The big serves of Isner and Opelka will be key, even given the Haro-Rebound Ace court appears to be playing slower than in previous years.
McEnroe will also need to find points in doubles – this year he’s missing Jack Sock, who has played every Team World doubles rubber in the competition’s history thus far. No-one has won more rubbers in Laver Cup history than Sock’s eight.
At least Isner and Kyrgios are both unbeaten in Laver Cup doubles, while Denis Shapovalov may well have a big role to play in this department. He will partner Isner on the opening day.
Diego Schwartzman may be the team’s weak link and consigned to the role he played in 2018 – just one singles match on day one. He was playing (and surprisingly losing) on clay in the Davis Cup at the weekend which doesn’t bode well.
In terms of the outright winner, Europe are the right favourites but I’m not interested in 1/3 quotes.
With half of the event’s points up for grabs on the final day, one good day can effectively decide the outcome.
If TEAM WORLD can notch a couple of upset wins on Sunday, they will have a good chance of landing the 12/5.
They will need to ensure Europe aren’t too far ahead after two days but they’ve managed that in the last two editions – remember in both 2018 and 2019 John McEnroe’s men held the lead at one stage on the final day.
In short, at the prices, Team World looks worth a small interest.
In terms of the sub-markets, the likes of Sky Bet and Betfred have good offerings, including top points-scorer for each team.
JOHN ISNER looks the best bet in the World market at 7/1.
With the points at stake increasing as each day goes by, predicting who will play and when is key to this market.
With the first day’s selections already made, we know Isner will play singles on Saturday – when it’s two points for a win.
With each player allowed two singles appearances, I’d also expect the American to play on Sunday (three points for a win). He’s done that in all three previous Laver Cups.
A slightly slower court isn’t a bad thing for Isner, who has always enjoyed the conditions in Indian Wells where the ball is slower and higher-bouncing off the ground. And having a home player in Boston will really get the crowd behind McEnroe’s team when he’s on the court.
As an added bonus, Isner – unbeaten in Laver Cup doubles – has been selected for the final rubber on the first day, giving him another chance to add to his points tally.
The Canadian duo of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov are the top two in the betting but the former will play his first singles on Friday (one point for a win) which means he won’t be in singles action on Saturday when more points are at stake.
They look short enough at 11/4 and 100/30 respectively with Shapovalov’s form disappointing over the past couple of months – a period which has seen Isner, winner of this market in 2017, win a lot more matches.
I also can’t resist a stab at the 25s offered about ISNER being the top points-scorer in the event as a whole, something he missed out on by only a point in both 2017 and 2019.
I’d expect him to be playing doubles at least twice so he should get plenty of opportunities to reach six points – a figure which has been good enough to win this market in two of the previous three editions.
The top European points-scorer market has been won by Roger Federer on all three occasions in tournament history (dead-heating once) so clearly Europe need someone to step up and deliver a similar number of points.
ALEX ZVEREV looks the man most likely given his form and tournament pedigree – he has won six of his eight Laver Cup matches, including five out of six in singles.
He took Novak Djokovic to five sets in the semi-finals of the recent US Open as he continued an impressive summer which has taken in a gold medal at the Olympics and a Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati.
The German can play on all surfaces and should be able to adapt to different conditions without too much hassle.
Two singles wins would give him five points – enough to win this market in 2018 – while he’s already down for doubles on Friday when another point could be added to the tally.
I did consider Daniil Medvedev, the recently-crowned US Open champion, at 9/2 with Sky Bet but he’s already admitted he won’t be playing doubles which means he won’t be able to better a five-point haul.
That may be good enough but there’s no room for error so, while tempted by a player who was excellent in New York, I’ll pass on this one.
Posted at 2230 BST on 23/09/21
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