The Canadian, ranked 33, faces world No5 Thiem in the first singles match of the tournament, taking with him a 0-2 deficit against the French Open finalist and Indian Wells champion.
They will be followed on court by doubles expert Jack Sock against Europe’s Fabio Fognini, the champion in Monte Carlo.
Team World did not manage to win an opening-day singles match in the first two Laver Cups in 2017 and 2018—a 0-6 record—and the rankings suggest the drought will continue. But Shapovalov is hopeful that a recent upturn in form will make the difference. He said:
“I’m just excited more than anything. Hopefully I can kick-start it for our team and get the first point, but for sure it’s a tough match against Dominic.”
Fognini also looks a strong favourite over Sock in terms of rankings (11-210), although the pair share a 1-1 record from previous matches. However, American Sock has plenty of Laver Cup experience behind him, and the second-best points total in the tournament with 10, all in doubles.
So while Fognini might be a Laver Cup debutant, his 2019 form saw him break inside the top 10 in July, and his big-stage charisma should feel very at home on the dramatic black show court erected at the Palexpo arena.
Sock said: “I’m just going to use the confidence I’ve had over the last two years in doubles and try to get us some points this weekend. Hopefully I can surprise the whole world and get a singles win as well.”
The combination of Sock and Shapovalov will need to be at its best against home hero Federer and ATP Finals champion Zverev, especially in front of 17,000 fans on Swiss soil. But doubles is where Team World has flourished at the Laver Cup, in large part due to the skills of Sock, who added:
“Shapo and I will be first-time partners and we’re going to go out, have fun, and stay relaxed—we play our best when we’re having fun out there.”
Meanwhile, Federer and Zverev will be looking to go one better than last year when they lost narrowly to Sock and John Isner.
The evening session also features a first meeting between two 21-year-old stars, Tsitsipas and Fritz, who are both making their first appearances in the tournament.
The Greek reached No5 this summer after winning two titles and reaching the finals in Dubai and Madrid, while the American also reached a career high No25 with one title from three finals.
“It’s an honour joining such important players in our era, being part of this unique celebration. What I’m aiming for this week is gaining experience and learning from all the guys. People obviously expect a show and we’re here to give it to them.”
“I love the energy of being with all these guys and being around the team environment. I’m just really excited for my match and hopefully getting us started on day one with a win.”
Day session, 1pm
Dominic Thiem vs Denis Shapovalov
Fabio Fognini vs Jack Sock
Night session, 7pm
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Taylor Fritz
Roger Federer/Alexander Zverev vs Shapovalov/Sock
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge