For some of the players that just finished competing at the Laver Cup, the annual event represents an opportunity to build momentum from there and finish 2019 on a high note.
Here’s a look at five of them between Team World and Team Europe who had some solid results in Geneva, Switzerland, and will be looking to wipe away any recent struggles with form over the course of the next several weeks.
The German has been a top-10 mainstay for the past few years, but has famously been unable to break out at one of the four Grand Slams, despite possessing the game to succeed on all of the surfaces. That was expected to change heading into 2019 as he closed out last year with the biggest title of his still-young career at the ATP Finals. Instead, it was mainly a disappointing run, even though he made some headway with his first appearance in the second week of the US Open. The 22-year-old from Germany is entering the fall season with only one title, a stark contrast to how prolific he’s been the prior two seasons.
His quest to put the past few months behind him got off to a rocky start at Laver Cup as he dropped his first match to John Isner. With Team World threatening to win the title for the first time in Laver Cup history, Zverev faced Milos Raonic in the final singles match. After winning the first set, Zverev dropped the second before clinching the win—and the title—in a match tiebreak. It’s not guaranteed that he’ll qualify for London at this point, but the Laver Cup win could reassure him that he can play under pressure.
During the spring and summer, Fritz could’ve easily taken the title of the hardest-working man in tennis: The young American played 12 out of 13 weeks over the clay- and grass-court seasons, a stretch that saw him claim his first career singles title in Eastbourne on the turf. After a second-round loss at Wimbledon, he bounced back to reach consecutive hard-court finals in Atlanta and Los Cabos, Mexico. However, he was unable to maintain that pace and fell into a mini-slump, losing his opening matches at the two Masters 1000 events in Canada and Cincinnati, as well as at the US Open.
Making his Laver Cup debut, Fritz’s skid hit four matches as he fell to Stefanos Tsitsipas first up. Taking the court later as an injury replacement for Nick Kyrgios, Fritz kept Team World’s hopes alive with a win against Dominic Thiem. Though he lost his opening match in Chengdu, China, the 21-year-old has secured his best-ever finish in the standings and could possibly surpass his career high of 25 set this year.
Over the course of the past two seasons, the travails of the American on the singles court have been well-documented as he’s seen his ranking fall more than 200 spots since the end of 2017. Having missed the bulk of this year due to a thumb injury, Sock—a Laver Cup staple—arrived in Geneva with an 0-4 singles record in 2019.
Paired up against world No. 11 Fabio Fognini in his first match, Sock defeated the Italian in straight sets to give Team World its first-ever singles win on the opening day. He also shined on the doubles court, as usual, and kept the team within striking distance of the title. As he continues to work on getting his legs under him, Sock could find motivation from the singles win to boost his prospects at either the Challenger or ATP Tour level.
Only 20 years old, Shapovalov has been touted as one of the next great stars for the past few seasons now: That’s what happens when you top Grand Slam champions Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal in back-to-back matches, a feat he accomplished in front of his compatriots in Canada in 2017. Though he cracked the top 20 for the first time in April of this year, the young Canadian has spent the bulk of 2019 trying to gain some momentum. He’s even taken a backseat in the rankings to his best friend and countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime.
There have been recent signs of a turnaround: Bringing in former ATP top-tenner Mikhail Youzhny as coach, Shapovalov had a solid finish to the US summer hard-court swing and at the Laver Cup, he pushed world No. 5 Thiem to the brink as he let his own match-point opportunities slip by. The quick turnaround to Chengdu, China, didn’t affect him as he won his opening-round match in straight sets. Seeded eighth there, he could be considered a strong contender for his first career title this week.
After starting off 2019 with a semifinal finish at the Australian Open and cracking the top 10 of the ATP rankings shortly thereafter, Tsitisipas was expected to challenge for the other three majors and potentially break the “Big 3” stranglehold on the Slams. At the French Open, Greece’s best-ever player reached the fourth round, but cratered at Wimbledon and the US Open with first-round flameouts.
Tsitsipas snapped a two-match losing skid at the Laver Cup by beating Fritz in a tight singles match and is now in Zhuhai, China, as the top seed, where he’ll open up play against Adrian Mannarino. Never shy about his ambitions, the 21-year-old is eyeing a strong finish for 2019 as he looks to go from NextGen champion to ATP Finals qualifier in a year’s time.