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Laver Cup 2023 Roster Rundown: Team Europe is in unfamiliar territory
Holger Rune is out, leaving an interesting mix: three top tenners who’ve all previously played the event, and three rookies, each with a distinct skill set.
Published Sep 19, 2023
After winning the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team Europe last year lost the title for the first time. Naturally, captain Bjorn Borg is eager to reclaim it. Here's who will compete in Vancouver in blue.
Casper Ruud: Rock-Solid
Twice a member of Team Europe, the ninth-ranked Ruud has won both of his Laver Cup singles matches, earning victories over Reilly Opelka in 2021 and last year versus Jack Sock. That latter effort came shortly after Ruud reached the US Open final, only beaten at that stage by a sizzling Carlos Alcaraz. This year it’s different, Ruud having lost in the second round of the US Open to 67th-ranked Zhizhen Zhang. It’s most likely that both of Ruud’s last two US Open results are outliers.
Ruud’s rock-solid baseline game, fueled most of all by a dynamic forehand, has generated solid results on all surfaces. Still, of the 24-year-old Norwegian’s ten ATP singles titles, nine have been earned on clay. Ruud has also been a finalist the last two years at Roland Garros. His overall consistency and calm temperament make Ruud an ideal team player.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: At The Crossroads
This is a strange time for the 25-year-old Tsitsipas. Considering how rocky the road has been for him this year, it seems eons ago that Tsitsipas began 2023 with a run to the Australian Open final. Most recently, this summer he was outplayed in two five-setters at Wimbledon and the US Open. At the All England Club, Tsitsipas was overtaken by Cinderella story Chris Eubanks in the round of 16. In New York, Tsitsipas was upset in the second round by No. 128 Dominic Stricker.
Currently ranked fifth in the world, Tsitsipas is a Laver Cup veteran, having gone 4-3 in match play (3-1 singles, 1-2 doubles). But in another frustrating moment, a year ago at this event, Tsitsipas lost a heartbreaker to Frances Tiafoe, 1-6, 7-6 (11), [10-8]—a match that clinched the competition for Team World. Still, in victory or defeat, Tsitsipas remains a passionate competitor and figures to be in the thick of at least one compelling Laver Cup match this year.
Editor's Note: Tsitsipas withdrew from the event with injury on Tuesday and was replaced by previously named alternate Arthur Fils.
Andrey Rublev: An Honest Day’s Work
In a parallel universe, I imagine Rublev paired with his lifelong friend Daniil Medvedev as a comedy duo. While Medvedev makes elliptical wisecracks, Rublev is the straight man, a witness to life’s twists; eminently human, authentic, straightforward.
Those qualities have always defined the sixth-ranked Rublev’s approach to tennis. His commitment is obvious. So is his playing style: linear, power baseline tennis. Ditto on the emotional front. An anguished Rublev demonstrates vividly that tennis can be a hard game. Perhaps nothing more poignantly reveals the Sisyphus-like nature of Rublev’s struggles than his 0-9 record in Grand Slam quarterfinal matches. The most recent came at the US Open; naturally, versus Medvedev. But Rublev has also earned two singles titles this year, most notably in Monte Carlo, where he won a Masters 1000 event for the first time.
In his only other Laver Cup appearance, back in 2021, Rublev went 3-0: a singles win over Diego Schwartzman (11-9 in the decider) and two victories in doubles.
Hubert Hurkacz: Versatile Volleyer
In a fun connection to Laver Cup, Hubert Hurkacz is the answer to a trivia question that involves this event’s creator: Who did Roger Federer play in his last singles match? The answer is Hurkacz, who in 2021 defeated Federer in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. Accomplished as Federer was on grass, Hurkacz’s comfort in the transition area and superb volley skills also make him formidable at the All England Club. This year at Wimbledon, Hurkacz reached the round of 16, where he lost a tight match to Novak Djokovic, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 5-7, 6-4.
Currently ranked 16th, Hurkacz is quite effective on any surface. Twice during this summer’s hardcourt season, he extended Alcaraz to three sets. As one of three Laver Cup newcomers on Team Europe this year, it will be interesting to see how the 26-year-old Pole fares under the pressure of collaboration and the event’s distinct points system.
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Alejandro Davidovich Fokina: High-Energy
Another one of Team Europe’s rookies, the 25th-ranked Davidovich Fokina can play electrifying tennis: a compelling mix of excellent court coverage, adventurous shot-making, and exceptional intensity. He’s also fresh off another team experience, having last week played three Davis Cup matches for Spain in Valencia.
Davidovich Fokina relishes the chance to compete. While some players minimize their tournament commitments between Wimbledon and the US Open, this 24-year-old went all in. Following a third-round effort at Wimbledon, Davidovich Fokina played two European clay events and another two on North American hardcourts. In Toronto, he went all the way to the semis, beating J.J. Wolf, Alexander Zverev, Casper Ruud and Mackenzie McDonald. Versatile and passionate, Davidovich Fokina will surely inspire his Team Europe mates, both inside the lines and on the bench.
Gael Monfils: Plenty of Creativity
While Monfils is the third Laver Cup rookie, he’s quite familiar with team play. Between 2009 and 2019, he played 15 Davis Cup matches for France, compiling an excellent 12-3 record.
Having turned 37 earlier this month, Monfils by now is just about ready to bring his car in on empty. He’s been a touted junior, young hopeful, skilled veteran—and is now a happy husband and father. Tennis-wise, it’s clear Monfils of late has been inspired by his wife, Elina Svitolina, and the upgraded intensity she’s brought to match play this year amid the tragedy of the war that has affected her homeland. Though currently ranked 142nd, Monfils on a given day is capable of beating anyone. This past summer, he earned wins over Chris Eubanks, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cam Norrie and Alex de Minaur. A highly visible team event like Laver Cup also figures to bring out Monfils’ distinctly creative way of closing out rallies.