The Laver Cup: When Rivals Become Teammates

Laver Cup (photo: Ben Solomon/Laver Cup)

WASHINGTON, September 17, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

As the arena around them gets its finishing touches, the bold and iconic black court shines brightly. Players from both Team World and Team Europe have begun practices in advance of the third Laver Cup competition, which begins Friday in Geneva.

For three days, much of the tennis world will focus on this ATP-sanctioned event, an exhibition, in which camaraderie will be the focus instead of rankings points. If the first two Laver Cup competitions are any indication, a prosperous weekend highlighting interaction and innovation are in order.

Consider this: In addition to honoring the legendary Rod Laver and with teams featuring a pair of iconic captains, Björn Borg and John McEnroe, the Laver Cup will intersperse regular sets and deuce games by speeding things up with 10-point match tiebreakers. And, there’s the black court, too. Plus, expect to see plenty of sideline encouragement – both coaching and cheering – from the likes of Borg and McEnroe as well as Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios.

Federer was the first player to step on the now-familiar black court at Palexpo Monday, as Team Europe looks to extend its unbeaten run that began two years ago in Prague and continued last year in Chicago. He worked out with vice captain Thomas Enqvist.

Soon after, Team World’s Kyrgios went through the paces, decked out in a Boston Celtics jersey, one of his favorite NBA basketball teams.

“Laver Cup is extremely good fun, I’ve had a lot of great memories,” said Kyrgios. In two previous appearances, the mercurial one has a 3-2 win-loss record. “To come together as a team and represent Team World is a special feeling. To be in Geneva, in Team Europe’s home court, I’m excited to get out there.”

On paper, Team World seems just a bit undermanned or, as Kyrgios suggested, “It’s lopsided.” Yet, there a possibility that the underdogs will overcome through good chemistry, on and off the court. Anything’s possible.

Except for Kyrgios and alternate Jordan Thompson, both from Australia, Team World is comprised of Americans and Canadians. There’s John Isner, Taylor Fritz and Jack Sock from the United States, and Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov of Canada. Meanwhile, Team Europe includes: Federer from Switzerland, Rafael Nadal and alternate Roberto Bautista Agut from Spain, Dominic Thiem of Austria, Alexander Zverev of Germany, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Fabio Fognini from Italy.

“I believe the match-ups can work and I honestly do believe that we can win,” said Kyrgios. “So, hopefully, it’s third time lucky.”

Team World captain McEnroe, never at a loss of words or hype, said of Fritz, who was recently added to the team to replace the injured Kevin Anderson of South Africa, “Taylor Fritz has shown some blistering form this year. He’s one of the young guns to watch in world tennis, and he’ll be a great addition to Team World in Geneva.”

What does Team Europe think?

“The format is unique and creates very emotional situations,” says World No. 2 Nadal, who comes to Geneva fresh from winning the US Open and undoubtedly will be a key in Team Europe’s success. “It’s a great competition.”

This is the second time for Zverev to come to Geneva this year, where he won his only title earlier this season on clay in May. “I’m excited. Obviously, it’s the Laver Cup. It’s an exciting event,” he said on Monday.

“It would be nice to make it three out of three,” said Thiem. “We are very strong, they are very strong. I expect a close match. I hope we can pull through again.”

So does Borg. The Team Europe captain is determined to successfully defend the Laver Cup. “The most important week for me every year is the Laver Cup,” he said. “I was here in February for the launch event and to be here for the serious thing this week with the match between Europe and Team World, I’m looking forward to it.

“I know my team is looking forward to it.”

Let the serious fun and games begin.