This past weekend, the men’s tennis calendar welcomed a new event. Named for the legendary champion Rod Laver, it was conceived largely by Roger Federer, and designed as a competition between Europe and the rest of the world.
You can read about the format at the event’s website, but it boils down fairly simply: each team gets one captain and six players, and they compete in a series of singles and doubles matches worth varying numbers of points, until one side has 13 points.
This was a brand new concept, unlike any other tennis tournament, and meant essentially just for fun. There were no rankings points at stake during the matches, and while players competed for prize money, the main draw was simply the honor of winning. And by most any measure, the first annual Laver Cup appears to have been a pretty big success.
For one thing, any question of whether or not the players would be invested in an event with no rankings points at stake should be put to bed. The players visible cared quite a bit throughout the Laver Cup, as evidenced by Australian star Nick Kyrgios breaking down in tears when he lost the final match to Switzerland’s Roger Federer.
The atmosphere, overall, was far more casual than what you see at other big tournaments (where the rankings are in play). But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of passion on display. The players played hard, celebrated wins, and regretted losses. They put on a terrific show for the fans.
The event also delivered the match everyone wanted to see: Federer and Rafael Nadal on the same doubles team (against, in this case, Jack Sock and Sam Querrey). It’s difficult to overstate how fun this was for tennis fans. Federer and Nadal are arguably the two greatest players of all time, and career-long rivals (and friends).
Federer won the Australian Open this season, and Nadal the French. Federer won Wimbledon, and was installed as the hot favorite at the U.S. Open as well, before he was ultimately upset and Nadal wound up winning. These two have simply lorded over the game – throughout their careers and, remarkably, 2017. To see them play together was a first-time treat, and one that made the whole Cup as interesting as people hoped it might be.
Finally, the tournament also served as an awesome window into the personalities of some of the young and exciting players on tour. Over the years, fans have gotten to know the likes of Federer, Nadal, and other established stars. But right now, tennis has an exciting young group of potential stars, and many of them were active during the Laver Cup.
Guys like Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov, Dominic Thiem and Frances Tiafoe may well represent the future of the sport. It was a lot of fun not only seeing them play, but seeing them interact with each other and with their own tennis idols throughout the weekend.
The Laver Cup looks to be a very fun new addition to men’s tennis.