Some of the greatest players in tennis are lining up for this year’s Laver Cup in Chicago, where Team Europe takes on Team World.
Named after multiple Grand Slam champion Rod Laver, the event was founded by Roger Federer’s Team 8 management company, Tennis Australia and Brazilian businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann, with the second edition also supported by the USTA.
The tournament features players from Europe taking on the rest of the world in a similar concept to that of Golf’s Ryder Cup.
Last year there was some unbelievable tennis played in Prague, we had a lot of fun and for me to spend a little time with these great players for a week was unbelievable, It was a very close match, and this weekend I think there is going to be some great tennis and tight matches. Bjorn Borg
On Wednesday, Federer told reporters that the aim of the tournament is to ‘bring all these different generations of players together so we can have a good time and learn from one another’.
The event is certainly not short of star names, with 10 of the players taking part currently ranked in the World’s top 20.
One of those making their debut is reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion Novak Djokovic.
The world No 3 is relishing the chance to play alongside some of his biggest rivals during the three-day competition.
“I was watching it on the TV last year and it was very exciting to see a new concept,” said Djokovic. “Guys who have shared rivalries were playing on the same side of the court.
“There was great team spirit. That’s what [tennis is] missing a little bit because it’s mostly individual tournaments. I wanted to be a part of it and have this great experience.”
Two former World No 1s are the team captains, with John McEnroe in charge of Team World and Bjorn Borg heading up Team Europe.
Both will be hoping the tie will replicate the popularity it generated last year when an estimated 83, 273 people watched the event in Prague, Czech Republic and all five sessions at the O2 Arena sold out.
“Last year there was some unbelievable tennis played in Prague, we had a lot of fun and for me to spend a little time with these great players for a week was unbelievable,” said Borg.
“It was a very close match, and this weekend I think there is going to be some great tennis and tight matches.”
McEnroe’s Team World may be the underdogs once again, but they will have home advantage in Chicago against Bjorn Borg’s group of talented players.
He believes the format of two sets and a tiebreak will suit his side and says he hopes they can do some damage.
Team World’s vice captain is Patrick McEnroe and the line-up consists of Frances Tiafoe (replacing the injured Juan Martin Del Potro), Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Diego Schwartzman, Jack Sock and Nick Kyrgios. Nicolás Jarry is the alternate.
Team Europe’s vice captain is Thomas Enqvist, with Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, Novak Djokovic, David Goffin and Kyle Edmund in the line-up and Jérémy Chardy as their alternate.
With a lot on the line, the competition is becoming even more special than a regular tournament these days, and can viewed live on Sky Sports from 21-23 September.
It is a three-day event which pits a team of six of the best tennis players from Europe against six of their counterparts from the Rest of the World.
Team Europe won the inaugural tournament last year when the Laver Cup was played on a black/grey court in Prague, and it appears the same colour court could be used this week.
Federer was asked on Twitter: “Roger, this is what we all wanna know: IS THE COURT GREY THIS YEAR? It’s like really important.”
The Swiss legend, 37, appeared to confirm it would be but did not reply to the tweet directly, making the rare decision to like the picture of him posing on court.
Tournament rules state that the court surface ‘will always be played on one competition hard court in a retractable roof stadium or indoor arena’ but don’t state the colour which it will be played on.
The event will be played on Friday and Saturday, with day and night session, followed by a final single day session on Sunday.
Each day four matches are played – three singles and a doubles.
Both singles and doubles will be best of three sets with ad scoring. In the event of split sets, the third set will be a 10-point match tiebreaker.
Each player will play at least one singles match during the first two days.
No player will play singles more than twice during the three days.
At least four of the six players must play doubles. No doubles combination can be played more than once, unless for the Decider on Day 3, if points are 12:12.
The winning team must reach 13 points.
In the event of a tie after all 12 matches are played, a final overtime doubles match – a Decider – will be played as a regular set with ad scoring and a tiebreak.
The Laver Cup will be watched closely also by the powers that be, currently embroiled in a fight over team competitions in the world of tennis.
The ITF has recently been approved to implement a new Davis Cup format from 2019 onwards, with the competition finals taking place over a week with 18 teams participating.
At the same time, the ATP is pushing ahead with its idea to bring back the World Team Cup from 2020 onwards.
This competition is set to take place in Australia at the start of each year with ATP ranking points up for grabs.
“In the Laver Cup we’re a team. That’s exciting and something we’re not used to,” said Federer in Chicago.
“To be on the same team as these legends – and legends in the making – and to spend a week getting to know these guys, is a wonderful way to celebrate tennis.”
While the three team events all appear to be moving forward along with their plans, it is very much a different picture behind the scenes.
Gerard Piqué, who is a key investor in the Davis Cup, has indicated the possibility of playing the finals earlier in the year in Madrid, raising fears that it could clash with the Laver Cup in the future.
“The good part of all this confusion is that everyone will have to sit around one table and listen to the other’s desires: the ITF, the ATP, the Laver Cup.
“It is true that the coming weeks may be very interesting,” Federer told French-speaking reporters at the US Open.
The Laver Cup gets underway on Friday at the United Centre in Chicago, with Europe as the defending champions.