Laver Cup won’t skip OIympic year

The original Laver Cup plan was to hold it three consecutive years – and then take a break during Olympic years.

Plans have changed. It will go on in 2020, when the Summer Games are held in Tokyo.

“The strong demand compels us to build on the great momentum the Laver Cup has created by holding the event every year,” managing director Steve Zacks said. “There is no reason to take a year off.”

Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro are on board for 2018. Rafael Nadal, committed to Davis Cup, is doubtful.

Laver Cup tix a pricey business

Series tickets for September’s second Laver Cup went on sale Friday.

The cheapest price for the three-day event is $445 ($115/day) – plus fees. Your total – for one ticket – will be $500.90. To go with a friend, you’re talking over $1000 for the weekend.

Top price for VIP series tickets is $7,500 ($7,563.75 with the fees).

Even when they get to the single-day sales, the cheapest ticket will still be more than $130. 

Note the new “us open” logo attached, as the American Slam is attached to this exhibition event just as the Australian Open is.

Personal gesture for Kyrgios

Athletes in various sports took a knee over the weekend as an act of silent protest against racial inequality.

Australian Nick Kyrgios did the same before his match against Roger Federer at the Laver Cup in Prague.

Most assumed he did so in solidarity. But Kyrgios said it was a personal gesture.

“I’m doing that before most matches just to remember, you know, the two most important people that have passed away,” Kyrgios said afterwards.

Kyrgios has had both grandfather Christos Kyrgios and grandmother Julianah Foster pass away over the last two years.

Federer-Mercedes-Laver Cup promo

Just about everything surrounding the Laver Cup was rife with sponsorship and promotion. Which perhaps is one reason why some fans had trouble taking it seriously as a competition.

There’s something to that, of course. Here’s Federer doing a quick little video about “stealing the Laver Cup”.

When you look at the truck, though – it’s the Mercedes “official trophy car”.

Beyond the promotional aspect, who knew Mercedes made a pickup truck? 

Now, you do.

Laver Cup goes all-black

There will be plenty of intrigue at the Laver Cup exhibition this weekend in Prague.

But the first thing that stands out is the court.

It’s black.

Yup, black.

The ball should stand out nicely against that backdrop, for television. As long as the players themselves don’t wear black!

Less intriguing may be the outcome, with “Team World” without some big potential weapons in Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin del Potro and Milos Raonic. Top player Nick Kyrgios is not a healthy fellow, either. 

It starts Friday.

Shapovalov makes Laver Cup

They say timing is everything in life.

And Canadian Denis Shapovalov’s star turn less than two weeks ago at the Rogers Cup in Montreal clearly turned a few heads over at Laver Cup Central.

The 18-year-old was named to the “rest of the world” squad that will complete against a European squad that will include Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Heady company indeed.

Shapovalov will have to head to Prague immediately after his country’s Davis Cup playoff tie against India in western Canada.

Raonic first to “Team World” for Laver Cup

The first nomination for Team World at the upcoming inaugural Laver Cup has been announced.

And it’s Canadian Milos Raonic.

Players officially qualify with their post-Wimbledon rankings, although they also have to agree to play.

“I can’t wait to be part of the first ever Laver Cup – it’s a tremendous opportunity and I’m really looking forward to being part of this unique team competition,” Raonic was quoted as saying in the press release. “Taking on the Europeans is no easy task – they’ve already got Roger and Rafa on board and we’ve all seen how well they’ve started 2017.”

The Laver Cup is scheduled to take place Sept. 22-24 in Prague, Czech Republic. Roger Federer (whose management company is putting it on) and Rafael Nadal are already on board. No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 2 Novak Djokovic have yet to sign on the dotted line.

Japanese star Kei Nishikori has already all but said he can’t do it.

Raonic late summer sked heavy

It could be a busy period for Raonic, especially if he goes deep into the US Open draw. The weekend after that, Canada plays India in a World Group playoff tie at home in Canada. Raonic didn’t play Davis Cup at all in 2016 (or the Olympics, for that matter). And he also missed the tie against Great Britain in February.

After a week in Davis Cup mode, Raonic would then head to Prague for the Laver Cup and then, presumably, hit the fall Asian swing.

Team World
McEnroe worked with Raonic last summer through the grass-court season. Raonic reached the Wimbledon final but lost to Andy Murray. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

John McEnroe, who worked with Raonic last summer and with whom he remains friends, is the captain of “Team Rest of the World”.

“Milos is incredibly impressive, both as a player and a person, and I’m very pleased he’s committed to playing the Laver Cup in September. I’m looking forward to working with him again – he’s a total professional, very dedicated and does everything he can to be as good as he can be,” McEnroe said in the press release. “I’m looking forward to helping bring out the best in him and the rest of Team World, and am convinced we can defeat Team Europe in this exciting new competition.”

You have to figure they “embellished” those quotes, right? Who actually speaks like that?

Home-country favorite Tomas Berdych will also play, if he qualifies via ranking. If not, captain Björn Borg could always select him with one of his two captain’s picks.



Another ATP team event in the works?

The first edition of the Laver Cup hasn’t even been played, and already there may be another men’s team event in the works.

The Daily Mail is reporting that a group led by Spanish soccer star Gerald Piqué is one of several expressing interest in backing a team competition the ATP Tour is considering.

Piqué, a tennis fan who regularly attends the Madrid Open anyway, was spotted in discussions with ATP executives on several occasions this week.

The Daily Mail said the format could be a week-long event with 16 nations participating. It takes some of the concessions the International Tennis Federation is considering making to the longstanding Davis Cup format and runs with them.

Just a coincidence, right? Riiight.

Been there, done that

There once was a tournament similar to this, on a smaller scale. It was called the World Team Cup. If you never heard of it, you’re not alone. Held in Düsseldorf, Germany on clay the week before the French Open, it essentially was an exhibition event by the end – a way to get in some preparation matches without stressing about results.

team event
The World Team Cup was a great idea at the wrong time of the year and without ranking points. Ultimately, it couldn’t survive. (Pic: Wikipedia)

From 1975 until its demise in 2012, The World Team Cup went through various sponsors. Ultimately, it failed to attract the marquee players – and thus the sponsors. Most top players don’t play a tournament the week before a Slam.

They converted it into an ATP 250 event, but after failing to secure a sponsor in only the second year, its license was transferred to the Geneva Open for 2015.

The problem, of course, would be to find a date – and a consensus location – on the already-crowded ATP Tour calendar. But being an ATP-backed tournament, it would run into fewer roadblocks than the ITF encounters with Davis Cup.

Alphabet soup tug of war

And that’s the crux of this whole thing: the eternal tug of war within the alphabet soup of the tennis establishment. With no overarching authority to incentivize all to work together for the benefit of the game, each side is trying to get an edge over the other.

The ATP is looking for additional revenue streams and to expand its brand – and break the ITF’s current monopoly on team events, as a bonus. The ITF, theoretically, is supposed to look out for the sport. But Davis Cup is a major revenue generator – and its biggest chip to play in that ongoing card game.

With the century-old Davis Cup format under various forms of attack from all sides, there’s an opening there the ATP wants to drive through.

Grand Slam Cup, RIP

It has happened before – except the situation was reversed.

The ITF decided it wanted to take on the ATP World Championships, and came up with a concept called the “Grand Slam Cup.”

The players qualified strictly on their results in the four Grand Slam events – all run by the ITF, of course. For a couple of years late in the 1990-1999 lifespan of the tournament, they added the women. For many years, the prize money was huge – and the only reason many players showed up.

The Grand Slam Cup tried a few dates: first in December and then in September, around the time the new Laver Cup is planned. Of course, the participants earned no ATP Tour points (just as the Davis Cup awards no ATP points now. Fed Cup players earn no WTA Tour ranking points).

It died in 1999. Posthumously, the ATP decided to soften its stand and factor in the results after all. (Insert your skeptical Rafa one-eyebrow raise here). Officially, it was merged with the ATP Tour Finals, which also were held in Germany at the time. 

Laver Cup player issues

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail also reports the Laver Cup is having some challenges.

On the ticket-buying side, all is well. The event, to be held in Prague, sold out quickly. The venture is supported by both the Australian Open and the US Open, which are putting their marketing acumen behind it.

You know Roger Federer is all in; he and his management company are putting it on. Obviously his renaissance this season can only help the cause. But convincing five other top players to take part isn’t proving quite as simple.

Japanese star Kei Nishikori all but confirmed to the Daily Mail he’s likely to pass. “Maybe I try to play, but mostly no,” he told the newspaper. The dates come just before the fall Asian hard-court swing. That’s Nishikori’s toughest, busiest part of the season, right at the time when the body is least durable.

The Daily Mail also reports Federer’s countryman Stan Wawrinka, as well as Novak Djokovic, have yet to confirm. 

With the “Europe vs. the Rest of the World” format, the scales tip heavily towards Europe for alternatives. On the “rest of the world” side, they have to hope Canadian Milos Raonic, Argentine Juan Martin del Potro or Aussie Nick Kyrgios is keen.

How this reported new event fits in – and where it might fit in – is the next question to be answered.