One-point Laver Cup matches carry the least weight toward the final score on Sunday, except when they don’t. While Day 2 and Day 3 matches are worth 20 of the 24 total points awarded, the four Day 1 points are important. Therefore Team World Captain John McEnroe and Team Europe Captain Bjorn Borg carefully filled in their Day 1 lineup cards. The 2023 Laver Cup begins Friday afternoon in Vancouver.
Despite only being worth four points, every time a team took a lead out of the Day 1 matches, they won the Laver Cup. While a move to changing the Day 1 schedule to eight pro-set matches would make the opening day even more exciting, as of now the four matches are important. Team Europe held a 3-1 advantage after Day 1 in the first four editions the event, they won every time. The teams split the Day 1 points in 2022, Team World took the cup two days later.
Weighing the Options
Since no player can play singles more than twice in the weekend, McEnroe and Borg must be careful in sending out their best players in Friday’s one-point matches. At the same time, momentum and playing with a lead greatly help in a team event.
Likewise in doubles, no pair can play more than once in the weekend. Unlike many regular ATP events, at the Laver Cup, the stars play doubles. These matches are played in front of lively crowds and engrossed teammates.
Friday’s doubles match, while always lively, counts for one point. The doubles match on Saturday carries two points and Sunday’s doubles is an all-important the-point match.
Session 1 Decisions
This year, McEnroe and Borg both came out cautious. McEnroe decided to send electric, but inexperienced Ben Shelton out to start. Borg thought the same, deciding on Laver Cup rookie Arthur Fils. The youngsters will get their Laver Cup feet wet before the drama builds.
Keeping the same tone, Team World will play Francisco Cerendolo in Match 2 on Friday afternoon while Borg countered with Aleandro Davidovich Fokina. Both are having great seasons but do not yet have the star power that sometimes carries the day on the weekend. Team World has never led after Session 1, might this be the year?
Friday Night Singles
By Session 2 on Friday night, the atmosphere at the Laver Cup is evolving. There is some history from the afternoon matches and points are on the board. Both McEnroe and Borg made great moves with their Session 2 lineups.
Knowing he’s been struggling and may not be a great choice for a multi-point weekend match, McEnroe entrusted home country star, Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime to open Friday night’s session. The Canadian will ignite the crowd, the crowd will help carry their struggling star. Wise move by McEnroe.
Borg was not outfoxed. By tapping the entertaining Gael Monfils, Borg chose a player who can feed off the crowd and add to the party. Monfils and Auger-Aliassime together can pump some life into a Laver Cup that is not bringing the same buzz it did in prior years.
In Sessions 1 and 2, Laver Cup doubles are played last. By this time of night, fans are often fully engaged and drama is building. With neither team having a true doubles superstar on their roster, the captains found good pairs.
By pairing Frances Tiafoe with Tommy Paul, McEnroe put together two hot players who have been around the Laver Cup. He also kept big serving Taylor Fritz and Auger-Aliassime in reserve, both have Laver Cup experience that can be valuable in doubles on the weekend.
By placing Rublev in doubles, Borg gets one of his best players on the court on Day 1, but keeps Rublev available for multi-point singles matches on Days 2 and 3.
After a week of build up and some careful decisions, it is time to play. By the end of Friday night there will be opportunity to criticize at least one captain and a chance to break down their Saturday decisions. It is one of the great aspects of the Laver Cup, let’s see how they do, and then do it again the next day.
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