It is no surprise to note that at almost all big time professional tennis events, doubles takes a back seat to singles. Sometimes, very far back. Such is not the case at the Laver Cup.
As Team Europe and Team World prepare to square off in Boston, doubles will surely be on the mind of Team World captain John McEnroe and Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg.
By the Numbers
Doubles counts for a full 25% of Laver Cup points. Carrying more weight than even Davis Cup doubles, Laver Cup doubles greatly impacts the event.
Each day at the Laver Cup consists of three singles matches and a doubles match. Together, the three doubles matches count for six of the 24 total points available. Additionally, if the teams are tied 12-12, there is a doubles match to decide who wins the cup. Nobody involved takes the dubs lightly.
Unlike doubles at ATP Tour events, Laver Cup doubles takes center stage. Historically, players and fans bring great intensity and passion to these sometimes pivotal matches. To add to the drama, doubles is played late in the evening on Friday and Saturday. Matches are fast-paced and if the teams split sets, the matches are decided with electric 10 point tiebreakers.
Along with the fans, team members join in the raucous cheering. The scene is rare in pro tennis, it can also be exhilarating. Just listen to the crowd and watch the benches react. This is not your outer-court doubles event.
Dubs History at the Laver Cup
Doubles has helped Team World keep Laver Cup contests close. Despite losing all three Laver Cup affairs, Team World holds an all time doubles record of 7-2.
Thanks in great part to the doubles prowess of American Jack Sock, Team World owns the dubs. Over the first 3 Laver Cups, Sock played all 9 matches. Laver Cup rules dictate that no doubles team can play more than once, so Sock was matched with three different partners each year. Amazingly, both John Isner and Nick Kyrgios hold perfect 3-0 doubles records in Laver Cup! Despite losing all 3 Laver Cups, these doubles tandems dominated.
Relatively poor results kept Sock off of Team World’s roster this year. However, he was named the Team World alternate on Monday. Will he find his way into one or more doubles matches?
Team Europe does not have anyone who holds doubles numbers like Sock, Isner or Kyrgios. Only Alexander Zverev has won a doubles match in Laver Cup play. He brings a 1-1 record to Boston. The only other European to even play Laver Cup doubles is Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek star is 0-2 in doubles play.
Laver Cup matches increase in point value as the weekend unfolds. Since Friday’s doubles is worth 1 point and Sunday’s doubles is worth 3 points, McEnroe and Borg must weigh their options carefully.
Should McEnroe pair Isner and Kyrgios or have them lead separate duos? If he chooses to send Isner and Kyrigos out together, does he try to grab early momentum in Friday’s 1-point match or wait until Saturday or Sunday?
Likewise, Borg knows he narrowly escaped with the Laver Cup in both 2017 and 2019 because Team World controlled the doubles. With an incredibly talented, but inexperienced team, to whom will Borg turn?
Look for Borg to rely on Zverev early to help buoy one of his Laver Cup rookies. An early hunch looks for Borg to send Zverev out with Andrey Rublev on Friday. Rublev and Zverev are long time friends who played doubles together in the juniors. Rublev also holds a 10-8 record in Tour level doubles in 2021, he has the most doubles wins of any Laver Cupper on either team.
If Team Europe steals Friday’s doubles match, they may build a wave of momentum to carry into the weekend.
Who is Ready?
Clearly, doubles means more this weekend than almost any other week. Yet, none of the players on either team has played much doubles this year. Team World’s win leader in doubles is Reilly Opelka with 8 and no player on either team has played 20 doubles matches this year. In fact, 8 of the twelve players on the combined rosters have played 10 or fewer doubles matches this year.
Too late to get much tournament doubles in now, it is time to go. McEnroe and Borg better choose wisely, the Laver Cup may rest in the balance. Ready? Play…doubles.