Editor’s Note: After publication of this article, Rafael Nadal withdrew from all of his matches in Laver Cup Session 5 with a wrist injury.
On Day 1 and Day 2, Team World came close in several matches, took a few, but lost more. Day 2 ended with Team Europe leading 7-5. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal coached each other through tough singles matches. Jack Sock again extended his Laver Cup record (8) for playing in all Laver Cup doubles matches in history. In singles, Nick Kyrgios came close before falling to Federer.
Have we seen this before? Yes.
Was this scenario identical in 2018? Yes.
Does the Laver Cup now have a growing and tangible history and story line? Yes.
Do the players, captains and fans take it more seriously than many critics expected only two years ago? Undoubtably, Yes.
Will Day 3 provide drama before Team Europe again claims the Laver Cup? Well, Yes.
Team Europe and Team World split Saturday’s four matches. With each worth two points, Team Europe carries a 7-5 lead into Sunday’s final four matches. The first team to 13 points takes the cup and all the celebrating that goes with it.
The stage is set for Day 3 theatrics. Team Europe needs to win two of Sunday’s four matches, each worth 3 points, to retain the Laver Cup. Team World needs to win three separate matches to wrest the Laver Cup from Team Europe for the first time in history. Ready? Play.
Laver Cup Session 5 Predictions
Match 9: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer vs Jack Sock and John Isner
Wow. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in doubles for the first time on Day 3 in Laver Cup history. The All-World duo played together in the 2017 edition of the Laver Cup on Day 2 when everyone was still learning the format and atmosphere.
Now, the world #2 and world #3 team up in a match with major implications. This is no exhibition. This is not a ceremonial feel good pairing. These guys want this, badly.
Sock and Isner won the dynamic and thrilling Day 3 doubles match in 2018 over Federer and Alexander Zverev in a heart stopping third set match tiebreaker. The American pair has experience, confidence and a feeling of desperation. Sock has played in every Laver Cup doubles match in history and knows this is why John McEnroe picked him to come to Geneva. Team World needs this three point match.
But, Federer and Nadal are, you know, Federer and Nadal. Both Europeans have shown how passionately they want to keep the Laver Cup on Europen soil in 2019. The world’s very best together. They know the spotlight is on them much more than it was in 2017. They won’t be denied. Look for solid teamwork and the confidence that comes with being on top of the tennis world for more than a decade to carry the Europeans.
Prediction: Federer and Nadal in two
Match 10: Rafael Nadal vs Nick Kyrgios
Head to Head: Nadal leads 4-3, first Laver Cup singles matchup
Team Europe Captain Bjorn Borg taps Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal for the fourth consecutive match on Day 3. By the time Nadal hits his first ball in this match, he will have played 3 matches in less than 24 hours. Risky business Bjorn Borg.
While Nadal has played superbly over the past several months and holds more skill and focus than rival Kyrgios, Borg’s ask is too much. While doubles does not tax the body like singles, the emotion, passion and importance of the doubles will leave Nadal a touch depleted. Kyrgios enters this match fresh.
Look for Kyrgios to exploit the narrowest of advantages to take this match and extend the Laver Cup for a few more hours.
Prediction: Kyrgios in two sets
Match 11: Roger Federer vs John Isner
ATP Head to Head: Federer leads 7-2
Laver Cup Head to Head: Federer leads 1-0
It should all come down to this. This Swiss superstar playing a singles match in his home country with a chance to clinch the Laver Cup for his team. Even as a Laver Cup organizer, Federer could not have scripted such a perfect scene.
Isner comes off his Day 2 match tiebreaker victory over Team Europe’s Alexander Zverev. He brings confidence and a Laver Cup passion that is matched by few others. Unfortunately for Isner, one of the players who cares as much about the Laver Cup and has as much experience is Federer.
The pair matched up in singles on Day 3 in 2018 in Chicago and played a thriller. Each of the first two sets went to tiebreakers, they split. In the match tiebreaker, Federer narrowly escaped with a 10-7 advantage.
Look for another tight match. Big serves, momentum swings, and unmatched team passion will be evident. In the end, Federer at home, with the cup on the line, with the crowd in a frenzy, with a statement to be made…Federer will have just a bit too much. Team Europe will capture the coveted 13th point and The Laver Cup will stay in Europe for another year.
Prediction: Federer in 2
Match 12: Alexander Zverev vs Milos Raonic
Head to Head: Raonic leads 2-1, first Laver Cup singles matchup
If this match is played, chaos will reign in Geneva. The 12th match of the Laver Cup has only been played once in Laver Cup history; in 2017 Federer knocked off Kyrgios to avoid a 12-12 tie and a one set winner take all affair.
After finishing Day 2 with Team Europe leading 7-5, 12-12 is not possible. If this match is played, it will be winner take all for the first time in Laver Cup history.
Zverev narrowly defeated Kevin Anderson in match 11 of the 2018 Laver Cup to secure the trophy for Team Europe. He has experience in this type of match and more overall experience in Laver Cup play. Raonic played tough against Nadal in his only appearance this year, but he did not have enough. While Zverev lost to Isner in Day 2, his overall level was stronger than Raonic and he has been here before.
That said, if the day proceeds to Match 12, that means the unexpected has already happened on Sunday and the Laver Cup cauldron has already claimed some victims. While conventional wisdom says this match will not be played, if it is, Zverev will be mobbed on the court after once again winning the Laver Cup.
Prediction: If played, Zverev in 2