Christmas came early for Czech tennis fans on Monday with a visit to Prague by tennis great Roger Federer, along with Tomáš Berdych, to promote the inaugural edition of the Laver Cup (named after Australian legend Rod Laver). The new tournament will be held in Prague in September, two weeks after the US Open, pitting six top European players against the best of the Rest. The world, that is.
All eyes were on Roger Federer in Prague on Monday, the 18-time grand slam winner (most recently the Australian Open) in town to promote the new Laver Cup, to be held in the Czech capital this September. Crowds gathered on Charles Bridge and the embankment to watch him, and world No. 14 Tomáš Berdych play tennis aboard a boat on the Vltava River, not something you see every day.
While competitors in the Laver Cup will not earn points on the ATP circuit, there is already a guarantee of quality and top tennis come September: along with Federer, his great rival Rafa Nadal of Spain has also signed on. Here is how Federer described the Laver Cup at a press conference on Monday.
“The idea is to absolutely have a tough tournament, tough matches, where the better man wins. That’s the idea of the Laver Cup. It maybe has no points, leading some people to think of it as an exhibition.
“But that’s not how we see it, that’s not how Rod Laver sees it, he wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and to try our very best, and, you know, win for our teammates, Rafa and Tomáš in my case and I think that we will be very motivated by our captain on Team Europe, Björn Borg, so I am really looking forward to that.”
Wait… what? No, you heard that right: Björn Borg himself will captain Team Europe and take a guess who will be coaching the Rest of the World: none other than 1980s champion and master of the serve-and-volley, John McEnroe himself.
“You can’t be serious, man, you cannot be serious!!! That ball was on the line!”
That, as well as the on-court talent, will no doubt be huge draws for the Laver Cup, which will take place at Prague’s O2 Arena. Each match up will be a best-of-three, with a split of the first two sets setting up a 10 point tiebreaker which should set the stage for plenty of excitement and possible upsets. 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, so the stakes and potential to stage a comeback will also rise significantly in the build-up to the final matches.
Roger Federer again:
“I think that Team Europe will be the big favourites, but because of the set-up of the tournament and the format the margins will be very slim. Even though on paper it looks like we will be the big favourites, I think the Team of the Rest of the World will have its chances. They have a great captain in John McEnroe who will motivate the team and they can really profit from him.
“Because it is indoors, I would assume it is going to be a medium-fast court and having a super breaker in the third set in singles and one doubles every day, as well as one point per win for the first day, two for the second, and three for the third, should keep things very interesting. Of course, I hope that Team Europe can win the very first Laver Cup in history – here in Prague.”