Roger Federer has arrived in Prague ahead of the premiere edition of the Laver Cup, which will pit two teams, from Europe and the rest of the world, against each other on an indoor hard court over the coming weekend.
Team Europe and Team World are being captained by former tennis rivals Björn Bjorg and John McEnroe.
Federer, the winner of 19 Grand Slams, told the media on Monday that he loved the Czech capital and was looking forward to the tournament, which begins on Friday.
The Laver Cup is an exhibition match that organisers hope will become an annual event, except for Summer Olympic years, held two weeks after the US Open at a rotating location.
I see this as a no-brainer for players, wanting to be a part of it. Why not spend an interesting, cool, fun weekend with all of the best players in the world, with those kind of captains? Roger Federer
Named after Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, a player widely regarded as one of the greatest in the history of the sport, the event has been created by Federer’s management company, TEAM8, Brazilian businessman and former Davis Cup player Jorge Paulo Lemann, and Tennis Australia.
The competition pits six top European players against six of their counterparts from the rest of the world.
The silverware includes molten metal from one of the first trophies and design elements from all four of the Grand Slam trophies Laver won during his unrivalled professional career.
Shaped to reflect Laver’s ‘Rocket’ moniker, the Laver Cup handles are curved, coming together to signify rivals becoming teammates.
There will be 12 matches played over three days, nine singles and three doubles, with the number of points awarded for victories increasing each day.
Each player will play once or twice in singles, with at least four of the six taking part in doubles.
All matches are best-of-three sets, with a 10-point match tiebreak if play goes to a third set.
Sweden’s Björn Borg will serve as the Captain of the European team while John McEnroe of the United States leads the World team for the first three editions of The Laver Cup.
The inaugural competition is being held in Prague’s O2 Arena from 22–24 September 2017.
Conceived at Federer’s behest to honour the Rocket, the teams comprise the four top-ranked players plus two captain’s picks and the odds heavily favour the Europeans, who hold the higher rankings.
Team Europe: Bjorn Borg—Captain, Thomas Enqvist—Vice Captain;
Players – Rafael Nadal , Roger Federer , Alexander Zverev , Marin Cilic , Dominic Thiem  and Tomas Berdych .
Team World: John McEnroe—Captain, Patrick McEnroe—Vice Captain;
Players – Sam Querrey , John Isner , Nick Kyrgios , Jack Sock , Juan Martin del Potro  and Denis Shapovalov .
Excitement is building as arguably the greatest tennis rivals will be stepping on to the same side of the court for the first time.
Tennis greats Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will put their epic rivalry to one side when they team up together for Europe.
Their rivalry has stretched 13 years and 37 matches with Nadal, back on top of the world rankings for the first time in three years, with a 10th title at the French Open and third at the US Open forming part of his 16-Slam portfolio.
“After all these years I actually get a chance to support his forehand, his aggressive play, his fighting spirit, his everything,” says Federer. “He’s been a wonderful champion for our sport.
“I think Rafa brought something to the game that we really haven’t seen that much before, or not at all.
“The amount of spin he was able to bring to the game or the physicality and his movement on clay.”
Nadal said of Federer: “I’ve never seen anybody with all the ingredients that Roger has. Big serve, big forehand, movement, the slice, but at the same time he plays with unbelievable elegance.”
Nick Kyrgios has replaced Milos Raonic on the World team, who continues to struggle with a wrist problem.
Raonic’s absence leaves the six-man World team without any top-10 players but Kyrgios, who had originally qualified for the team but didn’t take up his place, says he is delighted to play in an event named after his famous compatriot, who won 12 Grand Slam titles during his career.
“As an Australian, it’s a privilege to compete at an event that honours Rod Laver,” said the recent Cincinnati runner-up. “We grew up learning that he’s a hugely important part of our history.
“I love to draw on the energy that comes from being a part of a team and I can’t wait for the Laver Cup because I’ll be competing with guys who are also my friends.”
Team World’s Jack Sock and Kyrgios already share an off-court friendship, with the Aussie recently joining the American at his home in Kansas.
This entertaining duo can’t wait to train together, support each other’s on-court battles from the player bench and potentially team up as an explosive doubles combination.
On paper, the teams seem to be lopsided with Team Europe featuring five of the world’s top-10, while Team World’s top-ranked player is No 16 Sam Querrey.
Rankings aside, the head-to-heads between both sides are quite telling with Kyrgios being the only Team World player that owns a positive combined head-to-head record against the members of Team Europe.
Last August, in the press conference that announced details of the inaugural Laver Cup a reporter asked the Rocket why there seems to be so much respect among different tennis generations when it is often lacking in other sports.
Laver responded: “Tennis is a different kettle of fish. You’re one on one … when you look out on the court your whole life is just what you can accomplish in that one and a half or two hours.”
He is clearly both thrilled and humbled at having this event named for him.
“I had the opportunity to watch John [McEnroe] play a lot of matches,” said Laver. “We never played against each other, but I think the feeling is like we’re good friends.
“We haven’t really been close enough for him to think of myself as being a friend, so it’s a unique situation you have with tennis players.”
The promise the Laver Cup holds for us fans is pure entertainment.
The players, too, will enjoy the experience by coming together in a team format with colleagues with whom they normally would not join forces.
Camaraderie will flourish as the players learn about each other and the game they share the same way that other, more conventional professionals learn at, say, conferences and seminars.
The Laver Cup format also allows for some tantalising doubles pairings, including Federer and Nadal, and the two men seem primed to play together.
When Federer was asked about the already-taxing tennis schedule and any anticipated difficulty attracting players to participate in the Laver Cup, the Swiss shrugged it off: “I see this as a no-brainer for players, wanting to be a part of it.
“Why not spend an interesting, cool, fun weekend with all of the best players in the world, with those kind of captains?”
As for the team captains, Borg and McEnroe, they are all set to reignite their famous rivalry.
McEnroe has his younger brother, Patrick, acting as his vice-captain while Borg has Thomas Enqvist as his deputy.
“I am deeply honoured to stand by John’s side for the first edition of the Laver Cup’” Patrick said.
“This is an exciting time for tennis and I will be there doing whatever I can to ensure Team World has the best chance of winning.”
It is also be a dream come true for Thomas Enqvist as he is working with his childhood hero.
“He [Borg] is the reason why I wanted to play tennis,” he said. “My whole life he’s been my biggest idol.
“It will be a huge honour to work with Björn and this incredible team of champions in this first edition of the Laver Cup.”
Strategy and tactics from the team captains could prove to be a key to victory in the Laver Cup, with a unique line-up card exchange and scoring system:
On Thursday, captains Borg and McEnroe submit their line-up cards for Friday’s matches to the referee in a blind exchange, with match-ups revealed at a special on-court ceremony.
For days two and three, one captain will submit his card blind for the opposing captain to review before selecting his players.
Team Europe captain Borg will choose which day to seize the home advantage and submit his playing lineup after reviewing Team World’s selection.
Each match on Friday is worth one point, two points per match are up for grabs on Saturday, and three points for each match on the crucial deciding Sunday.
The first team to reach 13 points will win the inaugural Laver Cup, with a thrilling doubles decider played if the scores are tied at 12-all.
“This is a unique scoring format that is totally new to tennis and will be exciting for both the players and fans,” Laver Cup Managing Director Steve Zacks explained.
“I know every player is keen to be part of history and have their name engraved on the spectacular Laver Cup.”
There are no ATP rankings points awarded for the Laver Cup, but Federer insists that an exhibition “is not how the captains see it, that’s not how Rod Laver sees it.
“He wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and try our very best and also win for our teammates.”
The Laver Cup is destined to become the Ryder Cup of tennis and fans can watch all the action live on Sky Sports this weekend.