‘Americans’ triumph at Laver Cup

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

After the Laver Cup, will the Americans, the Canadians and the South Americans win some huge events, this fall? It is hard to tell. Yes, the “‘Americans” won it, beating Europe, and they played very well, but that is different to beat they excellent competitors, such as Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune.

The United States with Taylor Fritz , Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton all played in Vancouver, and they had some fun matches, but they have not won an ATP Master 1000 this year, or even and ATP 500 in 2023. So yes, they are all in the top 20, so they are good, but to win a big title during the entire of the year is questionable. That is for sure.

Also, how about the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had reached into the top 10. But, this year, he began to slip, after March, and he lost very early. Perhaps he can reset.

Argentine Francisco Cerundolo can look pretty decent, and on the grass, he won Eastbourne, but after that, when he faces against the great players, he still cannot hit harder enough.

However, the 20-year-old Shelton, who reached into the semis at the US Open, that the reason was because when he arrived there, the doubles had helped him. After the Australian Open when he reached into the quarters, he was happy, but then he had a lot of work to do. It look him seven months to understand what he really needed to put in some very smart matches, when he is hitting the ball, both side to side, and then he will learn it, gradually. He did, and now he is ranked No. 19.

“Well, back-to-back singles matches, I had some success in doubles, and so that’s definitely something that gave me some confidence, going into this event. That’s singles and doubles, confidence that I could put points on the board for the team and that I had been pretty fine-tuned in doubles throughout the year,” he said. “In terms of singles, sometimes it only takes one. Still trying to find my way out on tour. I don’t think I’m perfect at all or found my game exactly the way I want to, but it’s a lot of new experiences, different places and surfaces I have never played on, but being here in North America, indoor hard court with a huge crowd, it feels like home to me.”

The next huge event will be in Rolex Shanghai Masters ATP 1000, which will start October  4,  and all of the top players have to do it, unless you can pull out, such as Djokovic, who did it last week. But perhaps one of them can grab it, like Shelton, Auger-Aliassime, or Cerundolo. That would be damn surprising, but they have to confirm it.

Down in Guadalajara, Maria Sakkari won the title. She is  a very quick player, and she can also sprint for a hours, but in 2023, she looked very decent, but at some other tournaments, she missed a lot of basic shots. However, when they arrived in Mexico, she decided that it was OK, to win or lose, but to be happy, rather than being so frustrated.  The No. 6 player Sakkari said:

“I play tennis for a living. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t give myself a chance to enjoy it in the past. I told myself, you owe it to yourself to have fun. And this is what happened this week.”

In the final, she beat American Caroline Dolehide who was ranked out of the top 100 last week,  but now she is  No. 38. What a huge event.

Laver Cup event: Will the top players come back in 2020?

It will be a very interesting to see in the Laver Cup survive. Oh yes, this weekend, there is a ton of terrific players, but that doesn’t mean that next year, right after the US Open, they will play another time.

Many of them want to rest after the summer, when they had to play three of the Grand Slams: Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. The summer season starts late in May, and then it ends in the beginning of September. It is three and a half months, a real grind. Especially with the very good players, because they always go deep at the tournaments, most of the time. That is why their bodies can be very sore, or extremely hurt.

At the Laver Cup, the players are competing for Team Europe, and, for all other continents, Team World.

Yes, it was a dramatic end. They were all there: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic, Fabio Fognini and Nick Kyrgios, among others, and more.

In Sunday, the last match, Zverev beat Raonic 6-4 3-6 10-4 and Europe won cemented the win. Earlier, in the doubles, two Americans, Jack Sock and John Isner, overcame Roger Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Then, another young American, Taylor Fritz, upset Dominic Thiem 7-5 6-7(3) 10-5. Then, Federer turned it around in singles by beating Isner 6-4, 7-6. Zverev has not had a great year, but he played much better this week in the Laver Cup
There were three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Was it very serious, or just having fun? That’s a toss-up.

Believe it or not, in singles, early on, Sock beat Fabio Fognini 6-1 7-6(3). Sock hadn’t beat anyone this year, in singles. That is a shocker, because in the fall of 2017, he reached No. 8, in singles at the ATP Finals. Yes, last year and this year, he was hurt, but he tried in singles and doubles. Clearly, now, he loves doubles, as he won a could majors with Mike Bryan. But, in singles, Sock has so much work to do, certainly in his head and beyond.

With the third Laver Cup in the books, I would think that many people had a fine time and attendance is strong. But again, outside of the Slams, it is not easy to sell it, year after year. My suggestion is a reevaluation and make some changes.
But the way, Kyrgios and Sock are good friends. They are controversial, and maybe, during the fall, they can win a lot of singles matches in Asia.

Here is a good quote from Zverev: “I had two great coaches [Federer], one on the court and one [Nadal] on the sidelines. I could just shut off my brain and do whatever they told me to do.”

In St. Petersburg, there are some good players last week. No. 4 Daniil Medvedev was there, and without a doubt, the fans were cheering for him. A year ago, not many people knew who he was. Now they do, after he reached the final at the US Open. And then, he beat Borna Coric 6-3, 6-1 to win on Sunday, He is a huge hitter, and he hustles…
Croatian Coric is ranked No. 14. Five years ago, he looked very good, and many thought he would go very far. But he has sort of stopped. Yes, he can win matches, but can he take down the best players? He is a true grinder, which is good, but he needs to be more aggressive and thoughtful.

Another top 10-er, Karen Khachanov, lost in the first round. He is slipping a little bit…

In Metz, France, the veteran Jo Tsonga won the title, beating Aljaz Bedene. In his long career Tsonga has been somewhat close to winning a Slam, but he hasn’t. I have said this so many times, that certain people become injured all the time. It is hard to stop it. But at least Tsonga keeps trying, and he can focus. He goes have a terrific forehand and his first serve, too. Now he is back in the top 40. He has won a bunch of events, winning 18 trophies. Yes, he was won two ATP 1000s, in Paris and Canada. But, can he win a Grand Slam for the first time next year? He is a nice, terrific person, but can he grab his first major when he is 34 years old? That is extremely difficult, but he can push, hard.