Laver Cup: Roger Federer and John McEnroe join ‘greatest’ Rod Laver to unveil tennis’s newest trophy
Roger Federer joins John McEnroe to launch a special new tournament, the Laver Cup, in Rod Laver's honour
It takes a special occasion, headlined by a special player, to bring the likes of Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal to the same table, but when the player in question is the iconic Rod Laver, one of the most outstanding players of modern times—well, nothing more needs to be said.
Sure enough, it was the only man ever to win two calendar Grand Slams that had united four men who, between them, have won 51 Majors, one morning during last year’s US Open. Their purpose: to launch a special new tournament, the Laver Cup, in his honour.
The concept for the event was hatched, appropriately enough, at the Australian Open last year by Federer and his agent Tony Godsick. By September, all the ingredients were in place for that remarkable coming together of tennis royalty in New York.
This February, Federer took to a floating court with Tomas Berdych to announce the venue for the first playing of the three-day tournament: Prague.
And now, in the run-up to Wimbledon—a tournament won multiple times by all three of the stars of this latest show—Federer and McEnroe flanked Laver to unveil a trophy worthy of such a legend and such a tournament.
Their words said it all.
McEnroe: “I’m proud to be sitting next to my great idol, Mr Laver. I always grew up trying to play like Rod, and he was the guy who could to anything and hit any shot. I still can’t believe I’m sitting here now, all these years later.”
Federer: “For me, Rod is the greatest of all time. [Then] I met a man who is incredibly humble, a legend, the nicest man, and it’s nice to be able to call him a friend today.”
The modest Laver won 11 singles Majors and nine in doubles, and would have won many more had the tennis tour not split into professional and amateur branches during the 1960s when the Australian was at his peak. He won his first calendar Grand Slam in 1962, then completed a second after tennis finally went ‘Open’ in 1969, and in between, he won eight Pro Majors from 14 finals, along with five Davis Cups in a span of 15 years.
Laver has, from the first, clearly been hugely touched by the gesture of these fellow legends of the game. Indeed the small, elderly figure perched quietly between his admirers has looked almost bemused at being the centre of their attention.
“I’m just totally in awe in many ways to think that Roger and his crew put this together, and to put my name on the trophy is a legacy I will remember for ever.”
He decided, therefore, to contribute something special of his own: one of his silver trophies, which has been melted down and physically incorporated into the new trophy.
“Back in the 60s, the US Professional Tournament had a big bowl, and they retired it because I won it four times! And so it was fitting that that particular trophy should continue on and be mixed with this trophy. It was a thrill that the trophy could be continued.”
And make no mistake: the Laver Cup was revealed to be something special:
· Handcrafted in solid silver to suggest the shape of a rocket;
· Trophy took 400 hours to craft, stands 66cm tall, weighs 14kg;
· Curved arms signify rivals coming together as teammates;
· Two sets of four rings on the base represent Laver’s two calendar slams;
· Made by silversmiths Thomas Lyte, who are also responsible for Ryder Cup and FA Cup
For Federer and the rest, though, this trophy has become something more than a work of art. He explained: “When you win a title that the great Rod Laver also won, it’s wonderful to know that you’ve shared in those same experiences and that same legacy.
“But the Laver Cup is even more magical. It would be a tremendous privilege to lift a trophy that features a real part of rod’s incredible history. Both teams in Prague will fight their heart out to get their hands on it.”
Each team comprises six players, led by a team captain who is a legend of the sport.
Team Europe: captain Bjorn Borg
Players: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych [subject to qualification by ranking], plus TBA
Team World: captain John McEnroe
Players: John Isner, Milos Raonic, plus TBA
· The event will be played over three days. On Friday and Saturday, there will be a day and night session followed by a final single day session on Sunday.
· Four matches are played each day, three singles and a doubles.
· Both singles and doubles will be best of three sets. In the event of split sets, the third set will be a 10-point tie break.
· Each man will play at least one singles match during the three days, but no-one will play singles more than twice during the three days.
· At least four of the six players must play doubles.
· Match-ups will be determined prior to the first match each day through the blind exchange of line-up cards by the captains.
· Each match win will be worth one point on Friday, two points on Saturday, and three points on Sunday. The first team to reach 13 points out of the total 24 available will win the Laver Cup. If the points are tied at 12-12 at the end of all matches, a fifth match on Sunday will be played to determine the winner.
· Federer and Nadal are committed to compete for Europe this year.
· Borg and McEnroe will captain teams for first three years of the competition.
· The event will always be played on one competition hard court in a retractable roof stadium or indoor arena.
· Two “captains’ picks” will be announced by the Monday after the US Open.
· First Laver Cup will be 22-24 September, the O2 Arena Prague.
· In 2018, it will be played in the US, with subsequent tournaments rotating between Europe and Rest of World.
· Laver Cup will be staged annually two weeks after the US Open except in Olympic years.