PRAGUE, Czech Republic — With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup team tennis tournament, expectations are running high about the chance of seeing the two as doubles partners.
The three-day competition at the O2 Arena in Prague starts Friday, pitting a team of the best six European players against the top six from the rest of the world. No ATP rankings points will be awarded.
Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych are also on the European team to face Sam Querrey, John Isner, Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe.
The tournament is to honour Rod Laver, an 11-time major champion who won two calendar-year Grand Slams. It will include three singles and one doubles match every day. Bjorn Bjorg captains Europe while John McEnroe does the same for the opponents.
Federer and Nadal were clear about their choice of a possible partner.
"I’ve played a lot against Rafa on so many occasions, in big matches," Federer said at Prague’s picturesque Old Town Square. "I think in nine Grand Slam finals. Finally, to have him on my side it’s a joy. We talked about playing doubles a long, long time ago. It never happened. Of course, I would love to share the side of the net this time around. We have to see how practice goes and then at the end Bjorn will take the ultimate decision."
"Of course, I would love (to play with Federer)," Nadal said. "It will be amazing if that happens. We’ve talked about that years ago to play in some tournament together. It didn’t happen yet. We’re looking forward to playing here, hopefully. Let’s see if the captain allows us to play."
Borg has yet to decide how to form pairs for doubles, but suggested "there’s a very good chance" for Federer and Nadal.
"He’s the captain, he’s the boss here now," Nadal said. "I am just here to try my best, every time the captain wants me on court, I am just here to try to help the team to win the Laver Cup."
Federer warned a victory was not a given even though the two are currently ranked No. 1 (Nadal) and No. 2 (Federer).
"There’s a lot of expectations and everybody thinks we’re going to win and play together then we bomb out," Federer said. "So, we better make sure we focus on just playing good doubles and if it works together at the same time, that’d be great.
"I’m sure that the crowd would go absolutely crazy."