Rod Laver is very busy these days. The 83-year-old tennis legend was just at the US Open in New York and saw world number one Novak Djokovic fail to make the Grand Slam perfect. Laver has been the last male tennis player to win the four major tournaments in a calendar year. What he achieved in 1969 may well remain unattainable for a long time after Djokovic’s unsuccessful attempt.
This week Laver is in Boston, where the Laver Cup named after him will be held for the fourth time (every three days live on TV at Eurosport). Six tennis professionals from Europe compete against six players from the rest of the world. The Europeans have all won the last three events and even if Djokovic is absent this time and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are also absent due to injuries, the blue team around US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev are favorites again .
Zverev is the only player on the European side who has played in all Laver Cups
The team competition based on the Ryder Cup in golf begins this Friday, in which the format makes it possible for even a large deficit to be caught up on the final Sunday. On the first day there is one point for the team for each win in the three singles and in doubles, on Saturday there are two points for the same number of matches and on Sunday three. Whoever gets 13 points first wins the cup.
Zverev is the only player on the European side who has played in all Laver Cups. His record is six wins and two defeats, in the individual it reads even better with 5:1. No wonder he explained beforehand: “I have so many incredible memories of this event and of course especially of the decisive match in Geneva 2019.” At that time he got the victory for Europe with a dramatic success over the Canadian Milos Raonic.
Of course, Rod Laver was also there at the time, just like in 2017 in Prague and 2018 in Chicago. Last year the tournament had to be canceled due to the corona pandemic, now it will be made up for in the TD Garden. Where the Boston Bruins usually play in ice hockey or the basketball players of the Boston Celtics in the NBA. Even without Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, the organizers expect full ranks, 95 percent of ticket buyers for 2020 would have kept their tickets, the organizers recently said.
Boston is a special place for Rod Laver anyway. Here he won the US Pro Tennis Championships five times between 1964 and 1969 – on grass, of course, his favorite surface. During the week Laver visited Longwood Cricket Club, where the game was originally played. The tournament from back then has a connection to today’s Laver Cup, because the trophy for the winning team contains, among other things, the melted-down trophy from Laver’s 1967 success in Boston. “It feels like they still exist,” said Laver during his visit to Longwood and said he was very proud of today’s cup.
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The competition does not yet have the sporting importance of the comparable Ryder Cup for golfers (see page 18). It is an event you can touch, with a lot of proximity to the big stars. The show character is obvious, but in the meantime this show is more attractive than the Davis Cup, which is scheduled later in the year. Due to his controversial reforms, he pushed himself back into the second row, Alexander Zverev, for example, will again not play in the Davis Cup for Germany in Innsbruck at the end of November. The current mode just doesn’t appeal to him and many others. Even if there is now a lot of money to be made at the Davis Cup.
Of course, the bonuses are also right for the Laver Cup, with 250,000 US dollars for the players of the winning team. In addition, there are also whopping entrance fees. Instead of two weeks like the Davis Cup, the competition only lasts a long weekend and is also more attractive for the busy stars because of its compact schedule. Rod Laver is a bit of the living mascot – one that everyone loves and that reminds you of how tennis used to be. Jorg Leopold