How lucky is London? The 2022 staging of the Laver Cup is going to be the most significant and memorable edition of the event since it was instigated in 2017. Not only will it be remembered for Roger Federer playing competitive tennis for the final time, but it is set to be the only occasion bringing the era’s 4 outstanding players together on the same team.
Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray making up the bulk of Team Europe against Team World in London seems appropriate as the first of their quartet retires from the sport. It should be cherished that their ageing limbs and increasing ailments have still allowed this gathering to happen now, as it has not been possible previously.
Roger played in each of the first 3 Laver Cups. Rafa quirkily only participates when it is in Europe, getting involved in Prague in 2017 and in Geneva in 2019 prior to this one. Conversely, Novak has only taken part in a Laver Cup before now in America, with his solitary appearance being in Chicago in 2018. None of the Big 4 were present last year in Boston.
The annual alternating of the host cities between Europe and North America is set to continue, with Vancouver and then Berlin announced as the next two venues. But it is doubtful whether the Laver Cup will see much more of this exceptional group of the greatest players of their generation. Perhaps for further retirements, with its easy format and convenient calendar slot late in the tennis year.
On the latest ATP rankings, only Nadal at number 3 in the list would automatically earn a place in a 6-man European team. Djokovic in 7th place would just miss out, but could lead a very strong reserve side from the continent, as players from Europe currently make up the top 11. Murray in 43rd and the now unranked Federer are particularly grateful that the Laver Cup selection is not just based on the world rankings.
Inevitably, there are a number of notable absences from the O2 Arena in London this week. Most prominent among them is unquestionably Carlos Alcaraz, the new world number 1. He was for a long time being discussed as a possible participant but did not feature in the final line-up announced last month ahead of the US Open, where he won his first Grand Slam title.
Nor is his predecessor as number 1, Daniil Medvedev, involved this time. Both he and the other Russian in the world top 10, Andrey Rublev, played in the last Laver Cup a year ago, but are now excluded after their country’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the biggest disappointment at missing out will have been felt by Alexander Zverev, who is still recovering from the horrific ankle injury which he suffered at Roland Garros.
Zverev, the reigning Olympic champion, had taken part in each of the four Laver Cups before this, the only European to have done so. Likewise, the rest of the world side has lost its only ever-present players, with neither John Isner nor Nick Kyrgios being able to be on the team in London. Kyrgios confirmed his absence after losing in the quarter finals of the US Open.
The Australian felt that he needed to spend some time at home, recovering after the best results of his career, including a first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon this summer. He has also had to prepare for a different kind of court appearance as he faces a legal case over serious allegations of domestic abuse in Australia. That alone would have made his presence at the Laver Cup in London problematic.
While Kyrgios’s personal problems persist, and his attitude and behaviour remain a divisive topic among the tennis-watching public, alienating many fans, there has to be some sadness at losing an opportunity to see him at his peak. And he seemed to have developed a genuine rapport with John McEnroe, the Team World captain, who continued to pick him even 12 months ago when his world ranking had plummeted to 95.
The other notable absentee is Denis Shapovalov, who has not hit the heights of last year but is still 24th in the ATP list. Shapovalov has played three times in the Laver Cup but instead it is another 3-time participant in Jack Sock who will open the 2022 contest for Team World against Casper Ruud – despite Sock seemingly having been chosen as a doubles specialist, with his singles ranking now being down at a lowly 128.
In all, on both the Europe and world sides, only 2 out of the 6 players from Boston 2021 are reprising their roles this time. There are 2 Laver Cup debutants in London, Murray and Alex de Minaur, who, in a neat piece of symmetry, will face each other in the firstt evening match of the 3-day competition. Andy will become the 2nd Briton to be involved – after Kyle Edmund’s solitary appearance 4 years ago.