Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will play doubles together for the first time when the second Laver Cup gets underway on Friday.
The two all-time greats were always likely to be paired up at some stage, but it came as a surprise when Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg announced they would do so on day one.
They will take on Jack Sock and Kevin Anderson in Friday’s fourth match following singles contests between Frances Tiafoe (World) and Grigor Dimitrov (Europe), Jack Sock (World) and Kyle Edmund (Europe), as well as Diego Schwartzman (World) and David Goffin (Europe).
With only one point available for each match on the opening day, as opposed to two points on day two and three points on day three, it might have been expected that Borg would save his biggest stars for a later date.
Our #LaverCup Fan Zone family session is under way at the @UnitedCenter with @RogerFederer and Alex Zverev putting on a show on the Fan Zone practice court. Get your FREE Fan Zone tickets here https://t.co/6m0HEaauCC or enter the fan zone with an event ticket Friday to Sunday. pic.twitter.com/sJRgqh9Ddz
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However, his selection guarantees that Federer and Djokovic will appear on all three days of the tournament.
“I’m thrilled, excited, I have never played with Novak,” said Federer.
“We have had so many great battles in all the singles courts, and to finally team up together I think is going to be very special for both of us.”
Djokovic added: “This is what this competition is all about, you know, bringing us all together. We are going to have Anderson and Sock, who is one of the best doubles players in the world, across the net.
“We are going to have a great challenge and hopefully great support from team members and we can have fun.”
Federer has not played doubles since teaming up with Rafael Nadal to beat Sock and Sam Querrey at last year’s Laver Cup, while Djokovic has played just five doubles matches in 2018.
“We know it’s going to be a tough one,” added Federer, who after a brief discussion decided he will play on the forehand side and leave the backhand to Djokovic.
“Indoor doubles is always very hard to take charge and dominate, to be quite honest. I think it’s all about intensity for us.”
There was no lack of passion in the opposition camp, with John Isner visibly riled by a query around how seriously he takes the Laver Cup.
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) September 21, 2018
“Honestly, that question really annoys me,” said the American. “100% serious. This is not an exhibition at all. At all. 100%.”
Team World captain John McEnroe was the embodiment of that spirit, bouncing around the practice court collecting balls, dispensing advice and, at one stage, even facing a Kevin Anderson serve.
McEnroe and his brother Patrick, the vice-captain, have chosen to stick with the formula of playing the leading names on day two as they attempt to avenge last year’s defeat in Prague and overcome a team stacked with titles and higher rankings.
“Part of you obviously wants to save your best players for days two and three because there is more at stake, but we got pretty far behind [last year] and that hurt us. We got almost all the way back.
“There is a temptation to maybe use one of our better players – I mean, they are all good players – but maybe someone who we thought would have a better chance of winning the first day.
“But we ended up sticking with sort of more or less what you would expect, which is try to save the best for last.”
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