Laver Cup diary: Doubles date for Federer and Djokovic

Published by Piers Newbery

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic speak during a press conference at the United Center; Getty Images
It was the news we were waiting for, but a little earlier than expected – Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will team up for doubles at the Laver Cup.

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.

REPORT: Federer and Djokovic talk tactics

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.

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.

“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.”

Laver Cup: quick hits

  • “We’re sure not going to be boring like Team Europe.” Nick Kyrgios was happy to stir the pot ahead of Friday’s action, picking up on one of the main themes of last year’s event – the extravagant courtside celebrations of Team World. It seems we can expect more of the same in Chicago. “Yes, we will be celebrating on the bench,” confirmed Sock.
  • Jeremy Chardy might be an alternate but he has been given arguably the toughest task of the week – making Team Europe’s off-court game as competitive as their on-court prowess. “We have Jeremy for that,” said Alexander Zverev when asked who would be chief cheerleader. “He’s our team leader,” confirmed Grigor Dimitrov.
  • John McEnroe did his best to stay out of the ongoing debate around changes to the tennis calendar, but did say: “I’m hopeful that what they won’t do in tennis is end up with sort of all these different factions, and then instead of helping the sport, they hurt the sport ultimately because they are separate and no one can come together and do what’s best for the sport.
  • Play might not start until Friday but the first visitors were on site as the Fan Zone opened for business on Thursday, directly opposite the United Center. The news that Federer would be making an appearance on the practice court meant it was not long before the first queue of the week.
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