By Rassam Yazdi
This fall featured one of the most fan-friendly and enjoyable exhibition tennis events in the history of the Open era: the Laver Cup. Most importantly, this event answered the call for having a tennis competition like the Ryder Cup for golf, where the world’s most recognizable names go head-to-head in a must-see event appealing to even the most casual sports fans. It went exactly as the organizers hoped: players made the most of their opportunity to cross national boundaries, rooted openly for each other, and show emotions that individualistic sports normally force them to keep in check. As with most things orchestrated by Roger Federer, it was a great success, resulting in a sold out weekend in Prague and an overwhelming amount of praise and support from both players and fans.
The Laver Cup consisted of Team Europe and Team World. Each team showcased some of the most talented and skilled tennis players in the game, including tennis legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe as coaches for Team Europe and Team World respectively. In contrast to Team World’s youthful lineup, which included youngsters like Kyrgios, Sock, and Canadian Denis Shapovalov, Team Europe had many experienced veterans including the great Roger Federer, world number one Rafael Nadal, and hometown favourite Tomas Berdych. Even though the Europeans were clear favourites, Team World worked hard to make a comeback in the last match where a win for World could have tied the scoreboard up. However, after a gruelling three-set match, Federer beat Kyrgios after overcoming a match point, which propelled Team Europe to an emotional victory that put an end to a great weekend.
There are many lessons to be learnt from the Laver Cup. Firstly, it demonstrated the immense contributions to tennis of Roger Federer, who went so far as to create an event honouring tennis greats and put up an enjoyable show for dedicated fans. By honouring legends like Rod Laver and Arthur Ashe of the 60’s, as well as featuring some of the world’s upcoming talents like 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe, the Laver Cup did an especially good job of recognizing that the old and new can and should co-exist.
However, if tennis had a single, properly- unified government, this kind of team event would have already been created officially long ago. As it stands, tennis’s many organizations are reluctant to accomplish things together or to make significant changes to the sport. For example, the Association of Tennis Professionals, one of the governing bodies of pro-tennis, opposed the Laver Cup because they believed it drew attention away from two of their official tournaments and the International Tennis Federation felt that the event competed with the 117 year legacy of the Davis Cup. Nevertheless, amid obstacles and restrictions, the Laver Cup has prevailed as one of the most coveted tournaments on the calendar and offered everything desired by sports and tennis fans alike.