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Laver Cup growing in meaning for players

Andy Murray is among those who feel the Laver Cup is a lot more than just a team exhibition

Laver Cup teams AI / Reuters / Panoramic

There are no ranking points and in theory, it’s just an exhibition. But to the players involved, the Laver Cup means something.

In part, it’s because all tennis players love to be a part of a team. For most of the year, they are out there on their own, accompanied by their entourages, yes, but still fighting for themselves.

Events like the Laver Cup, where every match means something, is fun and the players love it. So, too, do the fans, it seems, with tickets sold out in minutes and packed stadiums throughout.

Team World’s Frances Tiafoe celebrates after winning his match and the Laver Cup against Team Europe’s Stefanos Tsitsipas | © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Of course, some of that is because this one was Roger Federer’s farewell but previous editions of the Laver Cup have also been sell-outs. Just going from the underground station at North Greenwich to the venue – a 200-metre walk – takes you past countless sponsors and hospitality offerings. This is big business.

“The players care a lot about who wins,” said former world No 1 Andy Murray, who was part of the event for the first time. “I was really disappointed the other night. We were in the locker room after the matches, which finished late yesterday, and we’re all discussing about who should play in the match-ups, who should play the doubles and which line-up we should go with.

Presence of big guns on sidelines a unique aspect

Having the likes of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on the sidelines during your match doesn’t hurt, either.

“You cannot be on the tennis court with all of these guys, top players that we all have huge respect for, and the captains on the side of the court, Rod Laver in the stands, and not care about the result,” Murray said.

“I believe this competition has a lot of potential for the future. I’m sure Roger is going to stay involved in the event in some capacity and maybe one day captain the team and things like that.

“For all tennis players, that is special to be a part of. I like the format, as well. It keeps all of the matches interesting. Going into the last day, you know, both teams have an opportunity to win. I think it works well.”

A jubilant Team World captain John McEnroe – after his side’s first win in five editions of the event – said he thinks the future is bright. “It’s a tremendous event,” he said. “Hopefully it will become even greater in the future. I think people got a pretty indication of why it is such a great event this weekend.”

Federer: “I’ll be there in Vancouver next year”

Federer said the format of the Laver Cup – singles and doubles, with increasing points for wins on each day – will stay in the future.

“I don’t see a reason to change it,” he said. “I think it’s very exciting. I think the format seems to be rock solid. As we went into it, I thought with the team about all different variations of the things that can happen, and so far it seems great.

“Obviously in five years we will have then been in many different places. Then eventually, I don’t know, Laver Cup will then move away from North America and start to spread out a little bit more. Where that is is not known, but I’m looking forward to seeing Laver Cup going on the road, really, and to great places.”

Federer: No plans to be captain

Next year’s event will be in Vancouver and Federer said he will be there, though in a supporting role, as Bjorn Borg continues to captain the side. At some stage, surely, Federer will take over as captain, but not yet.

“No plans there,” he said. “Bjorn’s doing a great job. Thomas (Enqvist) as well, supporting him all the way. It’s been great fun. Who knows, maybe one day, but we don’t have any plans so far. Right now I’m more just looking forward to come to Vancouver next year. I think the city is going to be great.

“I hope again we have a very strong team. I went through all different types of Laver Cups so far: the first one, the winning teams, now this time on the losing team, then also one where I was hurt last year but seeing it more from the stands and from the fans’ perspective, view, and now deep on the inside with retirement.

“I have enjoyed the Laver Cup in many different ways, and next year again will be totally different. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m sure Vancouver is going to be fantastic.”

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