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Roger Federer is not only the most successful player on the planet, or the most admired, he has also been the driving force behind the Laver Cup. The inaugural event was recently held in Prague with Team Europe defeating Team World 15-9.
It was his determination to honour one of his hero’s
Although Federer didn’t sit down for all the contract negotiations, instead leaving that to the men in suits, the event was his idea. It was his determination to honour one of his hero’s Rod Laver, and they pulled off what has been judged as a spectacular success.
The Swiss star was able to get a lot of sponsors on board and is deeply respected by his fellow players as both a role model and a peer. The staging was also elegant, the crowds enthusiastic and the players seemed happy to be team members.
When Alexander Zverev was about to serve to Denis Shapovalov in just the third match of the tournament, there was a murmur of applause among the crowd inside Prague’s 02 Arena, which quickly became a roar.
Zverev paused, looked up at the giant video screen and saw what the fuss was about, the aspect of Roger Federer. The German smiled, waited and when the noise subsided shouted to the side line, “Now put up a picture of Rafa, too!”. It was a great bit of humour and recognition of the two most successful Grand Slam champions of all time who were taking part in the event.
“To get advice from Roger and Rafa, you cannot be higher in tennis.”
An up and coming Swiss star and member of Team Europe, Dominic Thiem, said, “To have an absolute legend in captain Bjorn Borg on the bench with me, and to get advice from Roger and Rafa, you cannot be higher in tennis.”
There had been fears of an awful mismatch because of what was deemed on-paper as a superior European team, but that never unfolded. Largely because the event-scoring system acted as a great playing-field leveller.
The tournament ran over three days, with four matches per day. Each match won was worth one point on Friday, two points on Saturday and three points on Sunday, which kept everything very much in the balance ahead of the big scoring Sunday games.
The aim of the event is for it to become something like tennis’ Ryder Cup, and based on the first tournament, it looks an achievable goal. With a mix of singles and doubles ties, and six players on each side, the format is appealing and unique for tennis.
The scoring system is there to safeguard against an imbalance of power, but if Team World were able to pick from Juan Martin del Potro, Kei Nishikori and/or Milos Raonic, even a simple one-point-per-win formula could have made for a more competitive event.
Even the in-match scoring system of two sets and a match-tiebreaker if the players split sets was acceptable, as was the intensity of the players.
“An exhibition match? I don’t practice before an exhibition match normally.”
Nadal has got up at 4am to get some practice time in and told local media, “An exhibition match? I don’t practice before an exhibition match normally.”
Federr said, “It was a success, but this isn’t just about us. The celebration of Rod Laver and having team captains John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg there overrides the doubles, but this was still an important moment for us.”
There were some moments of exhibition-style play and fun being had, but that was partly because the benches of both teams were right beside the side lines, so bravado certainly played a part.
Federer’s appeal, personal power, respect and charm made the tournament a success
But what of future events? This year it was about Federer’s appeal, personal power, respect and charm that the tournament was such a success. It is hard to say if those qualities and his draw will be the same when he is no longer the active force on the game that he is now.
Even the greatest champions eventually lose their influence as they approach retirement, or have already hung up the racket. However, Federer got this event off to a great start, and he seems to be an outstanding entrepreneur with the Midas touch.