When the most highly anticipated moment of a three-day tennis event is two top players teaming up in doubles, you know you’re not on the ATP Tour.
And Team Europe won’t make the fans wait too long.
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will team up for doubles Friday, the second match of the night session on Day 1 of the Laver Cup.
There was a similar moment a year ago, at the event’s inaugural edition in Prague. The pairing of Federer and Rafael Nadal was probably even more anticipated, as inextricably intertwined as they have been during a decade-long rivalry.
It was a little awkward, as most first-time pairings are – especially involving two players with radically different playing styles.
How will Federer and Djokovic work together – Federer playing forehand, Djokovic on the ad side?
Doesn’t really matter. It’s the novelty of the thing.
The two have done a good job joshing and kibbitzing and pretending they’re good buddies in the leadup to the event. Although you have to ask the question: have they practiced together this week?
Three singles, then Djokerer
The opening day session Friday will be two singles matches. The first will have Team Europe’s Grigor Dimitrov go up against Team World’s Frances Tiafoe.
That will be followed by Kyle Edmund vs. Jack Sock.
The night session singles match will pit David Goffin against Diego Schwartzman.
It’s not exactly a star-studded lineup, with Dimitrov (at No. 7) the only top-10 player. But on the plus side, there will be an American in each match during the day session.
“He’s player with a lot of potential, a player who in a few years can win a Grand Slam,” Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg said of the 27-year-old Dimitrov.
When you see that night singles match, and take into consideration how much they’re charging for the tickets, they almost had no choice but to bring out the two rock stars for the doubles.
“I did have an inkling they would play – I am surprised they would play the first day,” Team World captain John McEnroe said.
Djokerer will take on Sock and Kevin Anderson.
So it seems Sock, who didn’t play Davis Cup last weekend because of a hip issue, has recovered well enough to play singles during the afternoon and doubles late night.
Of course, having a match tiebreak in lieu of a third set, compared to the best-of-five format on red clay the Americans were facing last week in Croatia, makes it a lot easier.
Stakes get higher through the weekend
The way the exhibition format works is that the matches on the first day are worth one point each. On Saturday, they’re worth two points each and as they get down to serious business during the single session on Sunday, a win will be worth three points.
Friday night could be the only appearance by Djokerer during the weekend – unless the teams are tied 12-12 in points on Sunday. In that case, one set of doubles would be played to declare the victor, and they could jump back in.
The lineups for the two sessions Saturday will be announced an hour after play finishes on Friday.
If you’re in the Chicago area and are of a mind to catch Djokerer, there have been a few extra seats released.
As of 5:30 p.m EDT, there are seven of the “cheapest” left in the upper deck, at $132 plus all the charges. Another 203 remain in the lower bowl, at either $420+ or … $600.
(The 46 tickets remaining for the finale on Sunday range from $720 to $840, with one ducat tidily priced at … $1,080).