Laver Cup previews: Cilic vs. Tiafoe, Thiem vs. Isner, Zverev vs. Shapovalov

The first annual Laver Cup begins on Friday, with Team Europe going up against Team World in Prague, Czech Republic. Day 1 singles matchups include Marin Cilic vs. Frances Tiafoe, Dominic Thiem vs. John Isner, and Alexander Zverev vs. Denis Shapovalov.

Marin Cilic (Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (World)

Cilic and Tiafoe will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers (unofficially, as this will not count in official records) when they kick off the Laver Cup on Friday afternoon on the indoor hard court of the O2 Arena in Prague. When healthy, Cilic has been outstanding of late. The fifth-ranked Croat finished runner-up to Roger Federer at Wimbledon before not playing again until the U.S. Open due to an adductor injury. He advanced two rounds in New York and recently dominated a pair of Davis Cup singles rubbers against Colombia. Tiafoe, who pushed a hobbled Federer to five sets at the U.S. Open, replaced Juan Martin Del Potro on the Team World roster for this weekend’s festivities. The 72nd-ranked American may be a bit out of his league here, and it would be understandable if he tries just a little too hard to prove that he belongs.

Pick: Cilic in 2

Dominic Thiem (Europe) vs. John Isner (World)

On paper, Team World is a considerable underdog. Isner is its second highest-ranked player (just one spot behind Sam Querrey at No. 17), but he would be the No.6 player on Team Europe. The 6’10” American will have to be one of the leaders for his squad, starting with a Friday afternoon showdown against Thiem. They have split two previous encounters, as Thiem prevailed 7-6(5), 6-3 on the red clay of Nice in 2015 before Isner got the job done 7-5, 6-1 later that season in Beijing. Both players recently wasted big opportunities in New York. The seventh-ranked Austrian squandered a two-set lead over Del Potro in the fourth round, while Isner–in a wide-open bottom half of the draw–got crushed by Mischa Zverev in the third round. Overall, though, Isner enjoyed another productive summer on the U.S. hard courts. On this surface he should have a great chance against Thiem; that, of course, would not be the case on clay.

Pick: Isner in 3

Alexander Zverev (Europe) vs. Denis Shapovalov (World)

It will be a battle between two rising stars when Zverev and Shapovalov square off on Friday night. Whereas Zverev is the far more established of the pair, it is Shapovalov who has taken the tour by storm in recent months. The 18-year-old Canadian made a run to the Montreal semifinals with an upset of Rafael Nadal in the process, qualified for the U.S. Open main draw, and ousted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route to the fourth round. It was none other than Zverev who ended Shapovalov’s breakout week in Montreal, beating the crowd favorite 6-4, 7-5. The 20-year-old German, who is already up to No. 4 in the world, will be eager to make amends for his loss to another up-and-comer–Borna Coric–in round two of the U.S. Open. He surely will not treat this as any kind of exhibition.

Pick: Zverev in 2

26 Comments on Laver Cup previews: Cilic vs. Tiafoe, Thiem vs. Isner, Zverev vs. Shapovalov

  1. I don’t have too much faith in Cilic, to be honest. He has very few really good days at the office and Tiafoe is out to prove himself. I think Thiem will beat Isner.

  2. Tiafoe Francis will win.
    John Isner will win.
    A. Zverev might win.

    Nick Kyrgios will defeat R. Nadal if they meet.
    If M. Cilic plays well unlike his current form Cilic might win.

  3. sorry but i d’ont care about this cup. I can’t stand that a player refuses to play for his country and go for an exhibition

    • @loulou
      Rafa: “This is not an exhibition at all. We are here to try our best. I woke up early this morning to go to practice. Before an exhibition match, I don’t practice normally. We are here to play our best. We are here to try to win. We are here to play with passion and to play for our continent [Europe].” ¤¤ (Via David Avakian and the Laver Cup)

  4. I predict that all the guys age 30 or older are more likely to lose their matches because they are not willing to use up the limited energy they have on an exhibition match, especially Fedal who are determined to finish the season off strongly. However, the younger guys could also be wanting to not go all out, so who really knows? Personally, I am DYING to see Fedal play doubles together! I don’t know if they ever have played together before, but I’ve never witnessed it… I just thought of a very funny scenario:
    What if Fedal play doubles together at Laver Cup, and discover that they happen to have perfect doubles chemistry, and then a few years from now when their singles careers are winding down, they decide to just start playing doubles together at all the majors and spend the following decade winning like dozens of doubles majors together haha?? We’ve seen great female players like Venus/Serena, Novratilova, King, etc. who won double digit majors in both singles and doubles. How awesome would it be if Fedal ended their careers with like 40 major titles each of them- 20 singles and 20 doubles?? I know it would never happen, but it’s fun to dream about it. Like if suddenly Rafans and Fedfans were forced to cheer both guys on at all the majors haha. In my dreams… 🙂

    • Correction- Venus has not won double-digit singles majors. But similar to Hingis, she is an all-time great who has won many singles majors and countless doubles ones as well.

    • Won’t happen, when their singles careers are finished, they’ll be too old to carry on in doubles! Rafa especially, wont want to travel and be away from his family once he’s married and with children.

      We may see them playing in the Senior tours some days, but I feel Rafa won’t be a regular there either, just making some once in a while appearances perhaps.

        • Yes it’s fun.

          There are many tennis player’s and others from different sports who are married and with kids but they still play the game and travel.

          NO BIGGY.

  5. i just want to say that it’s completely indecent to see Berdych at this cup and not at the play off. This is an exhbition. Nadal don’t want to say it because all this is organised by The maestro Federer …

  6. Yeah, I’m not so sure I’ll pay much attention to this exho.

    I prefer following the ATP and WTA tournament schedule.

  7. A. Zverev is the defending champion of Saint Petersburg 2016 (Russia) but he is not defending his title this year instead he is playing in this….

    Complacency destroys a person/player especially a young one, if A. Zverev thinks he has arrived or that he is a BIG BOY now then i am sorry 4 him.

    A. Zverev is one of my favourites and i thought he skipped this tournament to rest/recover or maybe minor injury but my little boy thinks he is a Man now and that’s a lie.

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