Sunday, September 10, 2017

As the Inaugural Laver Cup Approaches, The World is Catching Up to Europe Fast

It’s no secret that Europeans have dominated men’s tennis for well over a decade now. Nearly every big tournament since 2003 has been won by a member of the all European “Big Five”, which means few big titles have been left for the rest of the world. While the inaugural Laver Cup, a competition pitting Europe versus the rest of the world, may have been a massive mismatch had it started ten years ago, it appears that it will be a much more even matchup going forward than many may have thought.

When Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka fade out over the next few years, much of the emerging talent in men’s tennis looks to be coming from outside of Europe. The US and Canada alone have loads of young talent who should be able to compete with Europe’s best. Canada can offer new sensation Denis Shapovalov, who has shot up the rankings faster than anyone expected. The scary thing is he may not even be Canada’s best young prospect. Felix Auger-Aliassime, now 17, just won another Challenger title and is moving into the top 200 in the world. Auger-Aliassime is considered by many to be one of the best prospects to come around in years, and with Shapovalov will make sure Canadian men’s tennis builds on Raonic’s success for over a decade.

The U.S. has several good prospects of their own, as Frances Tiafoe, Jared Donaldson, Taylor Fritz, Ernesto Escobedo, Tommy Paul and others have been making solid progress. None have risen quite as quickly as Shapovalov this summer, but there’s still a lot to like amongst this group. And if he can stay healthy and motivated, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios could very well be the “world’s” best player for the next five years.

Even as the “Big Five” eventually stops being dominant, Europe should have plenty of new talent of their own. Alexander Zverev is already one of the best players in the world and should only keep getting better. Dominic Thiem is becoming a fixture in the top ten, and young Russians Karen Khachanov, Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev have all made good strides this year. Borna Coric is still just 20, and after beating Zverev at the US Open, may be ready to make a run at the top 20.

There’s too much young talent starting to emerge for anyone to know for sure who will dominate in the years to come, but it’s hard to imagine the “world” not putting up a better fight against Europe over the next decade. Fortunately for the Laver Cup, it may have come into existence at just the right time.

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