Laver Cup: Nadal and Federer show tennis is ready for change
The third edition of the Laver Cup resulted in a third victory for Team Europe, who triumphed 13-11 on the final day after overturning a deficit of 7-11 carved out by Team World’s doubles victory and Taylor Fritz’s win over Dominic Thiem. Roger Federer, the only player to win all of his scheduled singles matches at the tournament, and Alex Zverez's nerve-racking tie-break victory over Milos Raonic were the chief architects of the Laver Cup remaining in European hands. Who said anything about pressure? Despite the clear advantage held by Europe when taking into account the ATP ranking, the “doubles factor” levelled the playing field considerably. Europe bossed the singles 6-3 (12 points to six) and Team World hit back in the doubles with two victories to one (five points to one).
There has always been drama at the Laver Cup but on this occasion it was even more pronounced than in the previous two editions of the competition, which Europe won 15-9 in Prague in 2017 and 13-8 in Chicago last year. The points-scoring system employed at the Laver Cup ensures it: games on the opening day are worth one point, two points on the second day and three points in the final round of matches on day three, keeping the competitive edge alive throughout. Either team can win the opening eight matches to take a 12-0 lead but the opposition can still win the tournament with four victories on the Sunday, which would make it 12-12 and lead to a decisive doubles shoot-out.
Federer's brainchild shows tennis is open to innovation
Although there have only been three editions of Federer’s brainchild, which pays homage to the Australian great Rod Laver and has the added spice of bringing old adversaries John McEnroe and Björn Borg back together as coaches of Team World and Team Europe respectively, it seems as though it has consolidated itself within the tightly packed schedule of the ATP Tour. Although there are no ranking points on offer there is plenty of cash for the players, who are afforded the chance to show off their skills in a singular atmosphere in a team environment stripped of the restraints of etiquette required at other tournaments, which makes for a perfect fit as a televised spectacle. Without wishing to devalue any other event, in my opinion the competitiveness on show and the atmosphere inside a full house at the Palexpo in Geneva back up that viewpoint.
And without the Laver Cup, we would never have been treated to the spectacle of Federer and Rafa Nadal competing together in doubles or providing each other and their teammates – normally their opponents on the Tour - with coaching tips. This competition has allowed fans a more intimate insight into tennis than anything that has come before it. There is little doubt that on the whole tournaments have been crying out for improvements for some time, as we have seen with the introduction of Hawkeye. While we wait to see first-hand the novelties that the new Davis Cup format (which will take place in Madrid from 18 to 24 November) will embrace, it appears clear that tennis is a frontier open to fresh innovations.
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