Roger Federer headlines Chicago Laver Cup launch with Rod Laver, John McEnroe and Nick Kyrgios
Roger Federer was in Chicago to help launch the second ever edition of the Laver Cup along with Rod Laver, John McEnroe and Nick Kyrgios
Just over a year ago, in a very cold February, Roger Federer headed to Prague ahead of the ticket launch for the first edition of the Laver Cup.
And in truth, a bit of tennis with local boy Tomas Berdych on a launch in the middle of the Vlatava River did not seem the best idea in the world.
Yet thousands lined the Charles Bridge to see them do just that. And when tickets went on sale, they sold out within the day.
But then what was not to love about this brainchild of Federer and his agent Tony Godsick, this tribute to one of the greatest players ever to lift a racket, Rod Laver?
The three-day jamboree, featuring icons of the sport such as Federer himself, Rafael Nadal, Bjorn Borg, and John McEnroe, was a huge success, and they wasted no time in announcing the venue for the second playing of the event: Chicago.
A year on, and Federer has risen from the No10 he was at the launch in Prague—and that boosted from 17 by his victory at the Australian Open just weeks before—to No1. He not only led the Europe team to Laver Cup victory, but won 69 matches for just six losses, won nine titles, three of them Majors, three Masters, and the rest at 500 level, all in the space of 14 months.
This year was already a record-breaker, even by Federer’s standards. He went on a 17-match win streak, indeed 21 with his unbeaten run to the Hopman Cup title in January. But his last match, a gruelling, emotionally charged and emotionally exhausting final in Indian Wells, ended in loss.
Yet before most of his fans had drawn breath, the 36-year-old was up and off for the four-hour flight to Chicago and more press conferences, photo opportunities, selfies and signings with another set of fans, and another pre-launch knock on a mini court in the heart of the city. He had even found time to shave off the beard that has blossomed through the course of Indian Wells.
Federer, McEnroe, and Nick Kyrgios—the first to sign up for the ‘rest of the world’ squad this year—were also joined by the star of the show, Laver himself.
The modest Laver won 11 singles Majors along with many more in doubles, and would have had a lot 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.
The much-loved Laver has become familiar to a whole new generation of tennis fans, and not just because of this new tournament. He remains a huge fan of the sport, and is routinely seated in the front row of the biggest tournaments, including Indian Wells. He has, it seems, also become a fan of social media and his smart phone. He joined Twitter in time for the inaugural Laver Cup, posts and retweets with alacrity—and was so busy taking photos at Chicago’s Cloud Gate that he almost missed the team line-up.
Not so for the subsequent press conference, though, where Federer renewed his tribute to the man who sat by his side, a man who has become not just his idol but his friend.
“The idea of the Laver Cup was always to honour the legends of the game, starting with Rod Laver who we admire so much. John, myself, and everybody looks up to Rod and everything that he and his generation has done for us.”
“I’m very excited to be here in Chicago to launch the Laver Cup… I can’t wait to play it here in the sports-mad city of Chicago.
“Being part of Team Europe, with the legendary Björn Borg as our captain, and winning the first-ever Laver Cup was an incredible experience. It was amazing to team up with players who are normally your biggest rivals, and have the chance to play on the same side of the net and be members of the same team.
“I play against guys like Rafa, Marin [Cilic], Sasha [Zverev], Dom [Thiem] and Tomas all the time, so to have them on my side, cheering me on, giving me advice and me doing the same for them, meant so much.”
This was a first visit to Chicago for Federer and Kyrgios, where the Laver Cup will mark the return of elite men’s tennis to the city in September for the first time in 27 years.
Location, dates and tickets
· The location will alternate between Europe and the rest of the world each year, but will not be played during Olympic years.
· This year, it takes place at the United Center in Chicago, 21-23 September.
· Tickets go on sale on Friday 23 March at 10:00 am CDT via LaverCup.com and Ticketmaster.com. Advance access for Chase cardholders from Tuesday, 20 March.
· Each team comprises six players, led by a team captain who is a legend of the sport.
· Björn Borg will captain Team Europe and John McEnroe Team World for the first three years of the competition.
· Thomas Enqvist and Patrick McEnroe are vice captains respectively.
· Four of the six players will qualify on ATP singles ranking as of the Monday following Wimbledon. Two “captains’ picks” will be announced by the Monday after the US Open.
· The event will be played over three days. On Friday and Saturday there will be a day and night session followed by a 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, 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.