Why Team Europe aren’t the favourites at this year’s Laver Cup
The 2023 Laver Cup kicks off on Friday in Vancouver, with Team Europe more depleted than ever
The 2023 Laver Cup kicks off this Friday in Vancouver, after a London edition marked by Roger Federer’s emotional retirement. Last year, the sport itself almost took a back seat (understandably).
This year, the competition has never looked so balanced. With the withdrawals of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune, replaced respectively by Arthur Fils and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the cards have been reshuffled. The real question of who will win revives the sporting interest in this tournament, launched by Team 8 under the impetus of Federer in 2017.
Unprecedented average ranking for Team Europe
In 2023, Team Europe has never been weaker on paper, if we look at the players’ rankings prior to the competition. We have calculated the average ranking of the Europeans at every edition of the Laver Cup. In 2017, it was 11, the same as in 2022. In 2018, it was 7. In 2019 and 2021, the years of the highest average ranking, it was 6. This year, the average ranking of the players entered is… 40.
It’s also the first year that Team Europe doesn’t have a world No 1 or No 2 in its ranks. Gaël Monfils, ranked 142nd in the ATP rankings, is the first player outside the top 100 to join Team Europe (excluding substitutes).
On the other hand, Team World’s average ranking is 14, the best in its history and, for the first time, the most favourable in relation to its rivals.
Looking better for Team World – or almost
If we take a closer look at the teams, the form of some contrasts others. On the Team World side, the American players seem more confident than ever. Ben Shelton has just reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open.
Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz fell in the quarter-finals and also seem to be in top form. Tommy Paul, meanwhile, only reached the last 16 at Flushing Meadows, but beat then-world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz at the Toronto Masters 1000.
Only Félix Auger-Aliassime, who has lost six of his last seven matches (and been eliminated three times in a row in the first round of a Grand Slam), and Fransisco Cerundolo, who hasn’t won two matches in a row since the Bastad tournament last July, seem to be a little behind.
For Team Europe, Andrey Rublev, quarter-finalist at the US Open and recent winner of the UTS in Frankfurt, will be the player to watch. Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz, both eliminated in the second round of the US Open, are not in top form.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, semi-finalist at the Toronto Masters 1000 and eliminated in the third round of the US Open, will be one to watch. The two Frenchmen, Gaël Monfils and Arthur Fils, will be looking to bring their enthusiasm to Team Europe. The former was able to beat some top players this summer (Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cameron Norrie, Alex de Minaur). The latter will be looking to build on his first Grand Slam victory in New York.
Who’s the favourite?
This is the first year that Team World seems to have a head start at the Laver Cup. Led by four red-hot Americans, it’s almost impossible for them to miss out on a second victory in their history. Only the history between the two teams can give Team Europe confidence (4-1 on aggregate).
John McEnroe will be able to find the right words to motivate his team, if indeed they need it. Last year, the doubles team of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock showed no mercy against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. They’ll have none this year either.
Team Europe : Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Arthur Fils, Gaël Monfils
Team Monde : Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Francisco Cerundolo, Ben Shelton