Boston (and Montreal) potential Laver Cup sites

After an eagle-eyed spot by tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg of some otherwise unrelated photos on the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs Twitter feed, the news was “announced” on various tennis websites (and stated as fact on social media) that the city of Boston would be hosting the next “world” edition of the Laver Cup exhibition event.

It’s already everywhere.

There’s only one problem: it’s not true.

At least, not yet.

The photos certainly are irrefutable evidence that the city is a candidate to host the event in 2020.

But the decision reportedly has not yet been made. Laver Cup CEO Steve Zacks (via a spokesperson) told Tennis.Life the decision won’t be announced for several months.

“As we do each year, we are conducting site inspections at several venues for the Laver Cup in 2020 and Boston certainly made us very welcome,” Zacks said in a statement.

“Following the success in Chicago last year there is a lot of excitement and interest from a number of ‘rest of the world’ cities and we will announce our decision in the next few months.”

And this week, a little twist:

This year’s edition will be held in a “Team Europe” home site, in Roger Federer country in Geneva, Switzerland.

The inaugural edition in 2017 took place in Prague. Then the hosts flipped to the city of Chicago in 2018. 

So in 2020, it’s the “rest of the world’s” turn once again.

Originally, the Laver Cup had planned to take a break during Olympic years. The top players already scramble to squeeze that into a jammed summer schedule. But the success of the inaugural event led to a change of heart.

Laver Cup won’t skip OIympic year

Australia? Indian Wells? Maybe some day

You would think the fact that Tennis Australia has a stake in the event means the “world” host venues will be spread around the … rest of the world. Including Australia, which could host it indoors at Rod Laver Arena during the Aussie late winter.

The problem with that, of course, is that the event is held right after the US Open. To get commitments from the marquee players to head to, say, Argentina, or a city in Australia – or even Asia – would be a challenge.

Even with the amount of money on offer.

To then head to Asia for the fall swing is another big trek, and another logistical issue.

Laver Cup likes to make a splash

Anointing Boston the 2020 winner based on the circumstantial evidence would have meant the Laver Cup organization had suffered a severe communications breakdown.

The winning venue spilling the beans in such a random way – and not even to tennis fans – would have been somewhat embarrassing for all concerned.

Of course, you never know.

But it’s such a painstakingly orchestrated event, with so much money at stake, that almost nothing is left to chance.

The Laver Cup has already established a fairly comprehensive advance promotional plan to hype the event well before it gets to its destination.

Prague promo began in 2016

Photo: Ben Solomon – Laver Cup

The inaugural Laver Cup in Prague was announced just before the 2016 US Open – more than a year in advance. A press conference in Manhattan featured its namesake, along with Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The announcement that the 2018 edition would be held in Chicago came the day of the 2017 final in Prague.

There also was a press conference in Chicago featuring the mayor

Prior to the Chicago event, Federer made a pit stop on the way from Indian Wells to Miami to whip up interest. He brought Nick Kyrgios, John McEnroe and Laver with him.

And about a month before the Chicago event, they held another press conference (in New York) to announce the final roster.

Federer and Borg in Geneva

For 2019, the Geneva announcement came just before last year’s US Open

In February, newly-crowned Australian Open champion Federer touched down in the city along with Bjorn Borg. The promotional event coincided with the tickets going on sale. 

They sold out in a couple of hours.

Federer, Borg kick off Laver Cup

As a candidate, Boston had come up last year, before Chicago ultimately won out.

Both cities have as an advantage their proximity to New York, site of the US Open.

But fans make a valid point when they opine that the “World” hosts should be spread around as the European events are (even if the “World” territory is spread out over a significantly greater area).

But money, as it always is, will be the ultimate decider. And as much of a success as the Laver Cup has been in its first two editions, there has been a lot of money invested in starting it up that hasn’t been recouped yet.

It remains reliant on significant financial input from the hosts – whether it’s the wealthy USTA in the U.S., or from some other source.

Perhaps after a few more equally successful years, it can afford to take a relatively bigger risk on a site that might turn off the biggest stars.

As well, Federer is not going to play forever. And his presence and willingness to promote it (he does have a stake, after all) is a big part of its early success.

We’ll see in years to come.

Shapovalov talks about “Big Three” influence (video)

Denis Shapovalov’s remarks about how he looked up to Roger Federer when he was a kid got a lot of play last week at the Miami Open.

The fact that the 19-year-old was to play Federer in the semifinals had everything to do with that.

But in that same press conference, the Canadian teen expounded on the influence that all three members of the “Big Three” had on him growing up.

He looked at all of their games with an analytical eye.

And Shapovalov has tried to take something from all of them, and emulate it on the court.

Here are his thoughts on each of them.

On Federer:

On Djokovic:

On Nadal:


Tennis (Life) Birthdays – April 1, 2019

Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN), 27

It’s not been a vintage year for Dabrowski and her Chinese partner Yifan (Julie) Xu.

Still, they’re tied at No. 15 in the WTA Tour doubles rankings. They made the semifinals at Indian Wells and the quarters in Miami.

Both times, they lost to the Sunshine Double(s) champs, Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka.

Xu has been dealing with some injuries, mainly her back. So you hope that by the time the busy spring and summer season roll around, they’ll be back to full strength.

She earned three of her eight career WTA Tour titles in 2018 (two with Xu, and one with Jelena Ostapenko). Dabrowski also claims three mixed doubles titles: the 2018 Australian Open and Roland Garros with Mate Pavic of Croatia, and the 2017 French Open with Rohan Bopanna.

Dabrowski’s next event will likely put her over the $2 million mark in career earnings. Which is a nice number for a player who makes her living playing women’s doubles.

But that success has forced her to all but abandon her singles career. It’s a first-world problem to have. But Dabrowski was and is a fine singles player. 

If you’ve watched her Fed Cup teammate Bianca Andreescu over the last month, you get a sense of what she can do on the singles court. The only thing missing might be a little putaway power from the baseline. But that’s more a matter of confidence than ability.

The new ITF Tour has made it all but impossible for her to try to squeeze in some singles, with her current ranking of No. 401. She actually has more opportunities filling empty spots in the qualifying at the WTA events she plays.

But she’s at it this week, at a $80K ITF tournament in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Timea Babos and Gabriela Dabrowski lost in the 2010 Australian Open junior doubles final. But they have outpaced their conquerors on the pro tour by a fair margin. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

As a junior, Dabrowski won the Orange Bowl in 2009, beating Kristina Mladenovic in the final. She reached the doubles final a month later at the Australian Open juniors with Timea Babos.

6201.geniesmall Tennis birthdays April 1, 2011
Dabrowski and Genie Bouchard teamed up at the US Open juniors, matching bandannas and all. It feels like a lifetime ago. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

There aren’t many players who have won the Les Petits As event and the Orange Bowl. But Dabrowski was one of them.

She came along perhaps a little too early for the much-vaunted Tennis Canada high-performance program to help her.

Were she to do those sorts of things these days, the help and support would have been off the charts (under certain conditions, of course).

On the personal side, Dabrowski is bright, insightful and refreshingly aware of the world outside her personal tennis bubble. In her mid-20s, she’s coming into her own as a person, not only a tennis player.

Miroslava (Mirka) Federer (SUI), 41


The former WTA Tour player is now best known as the longtime significant other, wife and mother of Roger Federer’s four children.

She’s a constant presence in the stands at his matches, although she has put away the formerly ever-present smart phone. (Who the HECK was she texting, we’ve always wondered?)

Federer constantly credits her as a big reason he’s still playing. If Mrs. Federer wasn’t on board with it – and all the logistics involved with four kids in making it happen – he wouldn’t be here.

Mirka texting mid-match one night during the Australian Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Her most impressive moment was at the 2014 Indian Wells final. There she was, sitting in the stands, quite pregnant with twins, during an overbearingly hot day. It was a stellar show of support.

Less than two months later, Leo and Lenny were born.

Born in Slovakia, Vavrinec got to No. 76 in singles on the WTA Tour on Sept. 10, 2001 (Think about that day … the day before …).

She reached the third round of the U.S. Open that year.

Vavrinec lost in the first round of her last six tournaments through the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002, and called it quits. Of course, by then, she and  the Fed were already a thing.

But she OWNED Rita Kuti Kis of Hungary (on the honour roll for best tennis name ever).

Her most high-profile moment on the court was probably playing Hopman Cup down in Perth with her gentleman friend.

The two looked like crazy kids in love. But Mirka could hardly play, she looked so uptight. No kidding.

(See, she loved him when he looked like that. So it wasn’t just his legendary GOAT-tential that sold her. Over the years, her influence has definitely helped him in the style department. ;-))

Meanwhile, at 41, she looks better than ever. We want the name of her facialist.

Magdalena Maleeva (BUL), 44

maleeva Tennis birthdays April 1, 2011The third, youngest (and perhaps best) of the three Bulgarian tennis-playing sisters hits double-fours.

Known as Maggie, the baby sister reached No. 4 in singles (Jan. 1996) and No. 13 in doubles (Feb. 2004) during a long career that had her playing in Grand Slam events every year between 1990 and 2005.

Her career best was a quarter-final at the 1992 U.S. Open; but the reached the round-of-16 at majors 14 other times.

Her longevity was all the more amazing considering she turned pro on her 14th birthday.

She won 10 singles titles in all.

Maleeva’s last match had been in Oct. 2005 in Zurich, where she lost to Patty Schnyder after crushing Anna Chakvetadze in the first round.

8233.maleevas Tennis birthdays April 1, 2011
The Maleeva sisters: Katerina, Manuela and Magdalena.

But then, out of nowhere, she reappeared eight years ago, playing doubles for Bulgaria in the zonal playoffs in Fed Cup. 

She and partner Dia Evtimova won all three of their matches in the round-robin without dropping a set.

And that included a 6-1, 6-3 win against the very good Polish pair of Jans and Rosolska.

These days, she’s big on causes, both political and environmental, in her native Bulgaria.

Every once in awhile, you see her at the legends’ events.

Open stadium for Federer practice in Miami (video)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Most often, in the leadup to big tournaments when the bigger stars are practicing on the stadium court, they do so in near-anonymity.

The stadiums are closed to the public. And they’re often closed in general. At Indian Wells, the players have to access the Stadium 1 court through the stands, climbing back up to exit once they’re done.

But on Monday at the Miami Open, with the qualifying going on outside on the smaller courts, the tournament announced over the public-address system that anyone could come in and see Roger Federer practice on the main stadium at 6 p.m.

There were already fans in place in the cushy recliners that line the big court. They were joined by some additional happy Federer fans.

(We were told that the privilege of watching the best players practice in those pre-tournament days is part of the VIP luxury packages. Those  include those comfy seats – plus tables for their Moët et Chandon, and plugs for all their devices).

Federer played the Indian Wells final late Sunday afternoon against Dominic Thiem, losing in three tough sets.

Barely 24 hours later, he was on the court in Miami. It takes some time getting adjusted to the challengers you incur making transition from the desert to the tropical Miami humidity. So the early the better.

But that was early.

Here’s some video of it.

Fucsovics the sparring partner

Practicing with Federer was the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who is playing the best tennis of his career at age 27, and is currently ranked No. 36.

That means Fucsovics is seeded No. 29 in Miami. It’s his third time playing the Sunshine Double, which has 96-player draws. Fucsovics played other Masters 1000 events (with smaller draws, thus with a more stringent cutoff) for the first time in 2018. 

It was interesting to see them exchange crosscourt groundies and be pretty even-steven. Just another reminder that the difference between the champions and the contenders primarily isn’t how they well hit the ball.

But when the two would sit down for a water break, Fucsovics needed to wipe off the perspiration coming down his face and neck. Federer looked like he didn’t even break a sweat. 

“Better research next time, buddy!” – Federer (video)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – If you’re going to come into a press conference and ask Roger Federer the gazillionth question of his long, trilingual media career, you’d best have your ducks in a row.

Otherwise, the Swiss star is going to drop a couple of well-deserved barbs on you.

The poor fellow in question came into Federer’s post-match press conference after his straight-sets win over Stan Wawrinka with a whole narrative prepared.

Would Federer try to add another Davis Cup to his resumé, given the shortened format and the resultant lack of a multi-week commitment throughout the year?

(We’ll grant him that this, at its core, was supposed to be the point of the sweeping Davis Cup changes).

There was only one problem.  

Federer didn’t play the qualifier in February.

And without him, Switzerland was beaten by a solid, young Russian team that included Karen Khachanov, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.

And so, Fed had a bit of a go.

No thanks, Davis Cup

Here’s the other element of this tale, which Federer didn’t offer up in his explanation.

Had he wanted to play the Davis Cup finale in Madrid in November (along with his compatriot Stan Wawrinka), he well could have.

The organizers had two wild cards to give away. And, for whatever reason, they announced those all the way back last September. Great Britain and Argentina were the big winners.

Obviously, since then, No. 1 Brit Andy Murray has had hip surgery. And No. 1 Argentine Juan Martin del Potro fractured his kneecap.

But more than that, Federer says they put the full-court press on him for a quick decision. Not only did the three-day deadline not give him enough time to “consult with all the people he had to consult“, he also didn’t appreciate the modus operandi.

Had those two wanted to play in November, you have to think that would have been a done deal.

You have to feel bad for the guy – his heart was true. But this was a fairly big deal at the time. It’s not as though it required extensive dark ‘net research to unearth or anything.

He could have asked anyone of at least a dozen people in the press centre, too, before he dove into the Fed-abyss.

The “Big Three” on 1 and 2 (video)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The day after the rather controversial announcement that ATP Tour chief Chris Kermode would be gone at the end of the year, the three biggest names in tennis happened to be within three feet of each other on the practice courts.

It was lunchtime Friday.

And for the second straight day, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had practiced next to each other.

(They had been scheduled to do it again on Saturday at 11 a.m. in an early version of the schedule. But as of late Friday night, Federer’s name was gone).

But this time – a twist.

Replacing Nadal and Andrey Rublev on Practice Court 1 was … Novak Djokovic, the president of the Player Council. Nadal had some strong words for the world No. 1 after the Kermode news.

And in his press conference Thursday, Djokovic retorted in kind.

Through all this, Federer would not weigh in publicly.

Djokovic weighs in on Kermode decision (video)

Hey guys – have a chat!

It’s been crazy on those front practice courts for the last few days.

But here’s the scenario: Federer has said he has not had an opportunity to speak to Djokovic, as he planned to do in Australia. He wouldn’t weigh on on whether he thought Kermode should say or go.

Nadal has said that Djokovic has not spoken to him about this fairly significant issue of who will lead the ATP. He came in firmly in the “Keep Kermode” camp.

Djokovic, who has significant power both as the president of the Player Council and the best player on the planet right now, is the single most valuable spokesman about WHY some on the council decided Kermode had to go.

But he won’t own it, citing confidentiality issues in terms of his duties to one of the sport’s governing bodies.

But there they all were on Saturday, within spitting distance. Once Nadal and Federer cleared the area (Federer had been hitting with Daniil Medvedev), Djokovic and Fognini took over the court.

Fellas, can we talk?

Tennis.Life arrived at the tail end of this superstar megadose. So there was no way to confirm if they were cordial (as they usually are), ignored each other, had words, or it was business as usual on the practice court.

Probably the last option. There’s a pretty big tournament about to get started for them on the weekend.

We can say with relative certainty that Camp Rafa isn’t particularly thrilled with Camp Djoko.

There’s a fair amount of behind-the-scenes drama going on in the mens’ game at the moment.

So if these guys won’t practice with each other (the fans might not survive that, to be honest; it’s hectic enough that they’re even next to each other), they should probably at least find a private room and have a chin wag, right?

We’ll bring the top-quality scotch and cigars.

Fed and Nadal … then Fed and La Monf’ (video)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Roger Federer is feeling so good, he scheduled a practice doubleheader Thursday at Indian Wells.

And the first leg, at 10 a.m., was a special treat for the fans – many of whom would rather watch the big guys practice than take in a terrific, actual match in one of the stadiums.

It doesn’t happen that often that Rafael Nadal and Federer practice side by side. But it happened on Thursday.

It was unfortunate for Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, who was playing his first-round match at 11 a.m. inside the main stadium. Let’s just say that the number of fans just outside around Practice Courts 1 and 2 was exponential compared to those who went inside to watch one of the game’s rising stars.

Nadal was hitting with everyone’s favorite practice partner, Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

Federer was hitting with a player who took some time to place. It was the Italian Thomas Fabbiano, another undersized player who lost in the first round of qualifying.

Two Goliaths, and two Davids

Fabbiano, age 29 and listed at 5-foot-8, is currently ranked No. 83.

And no, while he and Federer seemed to know each other, we don’t really know how that came about. They probably don’t hang out at the same restaurants.

Like two ships passing in the night

The funniest thing about these meetups on the practice court is that for the most part, the players everyone would like to think are great buddies generally ignore each other. 

That’s true even when they are sitting back to back on the benches during the changeovers. It’s not like they’re gabbing like besties during water breaks.

That would be SO amazing, wouldn’t it? But they’re working. It wasn’t the time for two of the game’s giants to talk about the ousting of their CEO, Chris Kermode.

Even better? That some day, they’ll actually practice together. Obviously their practice pace and methods couldn’t be more opposed. But still, it would be a major occasion.

Or, barring that, play dubs together at Indian Wells or Madrid – or somewhere that’s not an exhibition where the main purpose is drumming up ticket sales.

The “nightcap” with Monfils

At 2 p.m., Federer was back out on the practice court with another unusual practice partner.

It was Gaël Monfils, who is having a great 2018 so far.

Now these two go way back. But we don’t recall ever seeing them practice together. Although surely it must have happened before.

On the next court were Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem. 

So it was another nice meeting of top tennis talent in the same area code. 

These are moments that happen regularly on the men’s side at Indian Wells. For the most part, the boys don’t seek refuge on some of the back practice courts (No. 8 and No. 9, notably), where the security cordons off the fans and they try not to let anyone in there.

Serena Williams, sister Venus and Maria Sharapova are fairly notorious for choosing to be back there.

It’s just one reason the men have a higher profile than the women do at a joint event like this one.

But it’s not as though anyone is going to go to the women and say, “Hey, it would be great for the WTA if you guys would practice right up there, front and centre.”

The return to the locker room from those practice courts basically takes all the players right by the big bullpen, where fans wait for autographs. It’s harder to walk right by them and not sign than it is when you leave the courts at the other end of the player’s field and stay wide of the area.

Enjoy the photos and the videos.

Roger Federer on longevity, retirement – and 100 (video)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.  – Roger Federer came almost directly to Indian Wells from Dubai, arriving during the daytime Monday.

He hit the courts shortly afterwards and on Wednesday, pronounced himself almost back on schedule, jet-lag wise.

With the first-round bye (he’ll play the winner of Peter Gojowczyk and Andreas Seppi), he won’t have to play until the weekend.

And as he came in to do his media availability Wednesday afternoon, he touched on various subjects.

One that he didn’t particularly want to talk about was the looming decision by the ATP Tour players on CEO Chris Kermode’s future. But he went into various other areas. 

Federer, on longevity, recovery … and *monotonous* massages

Federer on reaching No. 100

Federer on retirement, and what it will look like.

Federer gets it going on Stadium 1 (video)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – He might still be a little jet-lagged, but Roger Federer looked just fine on Stadium 1 Wednesday.

The No. 4 seed at this week’s BNP Paribas Open practiced with Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain in the early evening.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Indian Wells site on Stadium 2, eight other male players were about to wait out a rain delay before playing the Tie Break Tens event.

By the time they were done, Federer probably had his feet up at his house watching.

Milos Raonic beat Stan Wawrinka in the final to pick up the $150,000, winner-take-all purse.

Mr. 100 coming in from Dubai

Federer made the long trip from Dubai, where amid much fanfare he sealed his 100th career ATP Tour title.

He moved his ranking up from No. 7 to No. 4 with the win, and that gives him the No. 4 seed. He was drawn in the same half as Rafael Nadal.

His early draw looks pretty good. After a first-round bye, he’ll play against the winner of Peter Gojowczyk (1-0) and Andreas Seppi (14-1 during their long careers).

If he wins that, he likely would face his longtime friend Stan Wawrinka.

Despite the fact that he’s starting to play some good tennis, Wawrinka remains unseeded at this event. But the seed he would face in the second round is No. 29 Marton Fucsovics of Hungary.

Kyle Edmund, Frances Tiafoe and Fabio Fognini are in the section from which their next opponent would spring.

Here are some photos of the session.


Roger Federer will play Madrid

It turns out Roger Federer wasn’t kidding about rejoining clay-court civilization in 2019.

The Mutua Madrid Open confirmed Wednesday that the 37-year-old Swiss will play the Masters 1000 tournament, which will take place May 3-12.

The end of Madrid comes two weeks before the start of this year’s French Open, which Federer also is expected to play.

From the positioning of it, it appears it might be the only tuneup the 2009 champion will take part in before the big event – unless someone else comes through with a nice offer between Monte Carlo and/or Barcelona.

Federer returns after skipping the clay-court season entirely the last two years.

In 2018, Federer had a three-month block between Miami and the grass-court tournament in Stuttgart in which he didn’t play. Same in 2017.

Decision made: Federer will play the clay

In 2016, he played Monte Carlo and Rome – but withdrew from the French Open.

Combine the effects of knee surgery, a virus and a wonky back, and Federer decided he wan’t fit enough. In fact, after Wimbledon, he didn’t play the rest of the season – only to come back stronger than ever in 2017.

So when he arrives in Paris, will be the first time in four years he wasn’t in the city in the springtime. It snapped a streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slams played. 

Why Madrid?

Federer showed up in Madrid in 2016 – only to announce he was pulling out because of his back issues. He missed the French Open that year, and hasn’t been back to Paris since. Until this year.

When Federer announced at the Australian Open – right after his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas – that would indeed get his sneakers grimy this year, most speculation settled upon Barcelona and perhaps Rome as likely destinations.

No doubt the bidding began apace.

One of Federer’s contemporaries, Feliciano Lopez, is the new tournament director this year after serving as an apprentice to Manolo Santana in 2018. So that’s a pretty great initial feather in his cap.

Meanwhile, Federer is due to return to action next week in Dubai, his first tournament since Melbourne.

Madrid altitude – but no blue

Remember the blue Madrid clay in 2012? Federer sure does. That was quite an … episode in clay-court history.

If we know anything, it’s that for Madrid tournament owner Ion Tiriac, money is no object. Even if his event is a Masters 1000 tournament and therefore mandatory for all the players without the exemption service time of Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, there can always be more fans.

At a little bit of altitude, Madrid plays more quickly than some of the other clay-court events – something home-country hero Nadal doesn’t much care for, but which Federer doesn’t mind.

He won the event in 2006, 2009 and 2012, and reached the final on two other occasions.

That 2012 edition was … special. Federer was basically the only player in the field who actually liked Tiriac’s one-year flirtation with blue clay that turned out to be significantly more slippery that anticipated.

The last time Federer played Madrid, in 2015, he was beaten in his opening match by a young Nick Kyrgios by a crazy score: 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (12). It was their first-ever meeting.