The Laver Cup – the latest new tennis format
The first edition of the Laver Cup takes place in Prague, Czech Republic, between September 22 and 24. Named after legendary tennis player Rod Laver, it sees six European male players face off against six male players from the rest of the world.
The Laver Cup is one of many new formats introduced in the tennis world in recent years. All with the idea of making the game more attractive, offering a faster, more intriguing format or bringing tennis to new markets.
So what format does the Laver Cup actually have? What does it bring to the tennis market and is it here to stay?
The Laver Cup format
The Laver Cup is a competition between Europe and the rest of the world. Much like the Ryder Cup in golf. Six players are selected for each team. Four based on the ATP ranking after Wimbledon and the team captains select the two other players.
The Laver Cup gives fans three full days of tennis where all the rules have to make sure it remains exciting throughout the weekend. A few of the rules:
- Three days with three singles and one doubles match per day
- Best of three sets, with third set being a tiebreak till ten
- Friday match winners get one point, Saturday’s two and Sunday’s three points
- Captain chooses who plays within rules (e.g. max. number of matches)
The event will take place every year (except for Summer Olympics years) and the location will alternate between Europe and the rest of the world.
Attracting big names
Since four of the six players qualify based on ranking, there is a great possibility of having star players. That is if they want to participate and are not injured.
Some of the people participating ‘off-court’ are also big tennis names. Rod Laver’s name is linked to the whole competition. The captains are former rivals John McEnroe (world) and Björn Borg (Europe), giving it an extra dimension for older fans as well.
|Björn Borg – captain (SWE)||John McEnroe – captain (USA)|
|Rafael Nadal (ESP)||Jack Sock (USA)|
|Roger Federer (SUI)||Nick Kyrgios (AUS)|
|Marin Cilic (CRO)||John Isner (USA)|
|Dominic Thiem (AUT)||Sam Querrey (USA)|
|Alexander Zverev (GER)||Denis Shapovalov (CAN)|
|Tomas Berdych (CZE)||Frances Tiafoe (USA)|
Even though the line-up is strong and exciting, it is a shame that quite a lot of high profile players are injured. Yet the first edition will see Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play for Europe. Two of the sports’ all time greats who have won all four Grand Slam titles in 2017. The format makes it possible for fans to see these two greats play doubles together in a competitive format.
Bringing a show to the fans
To sell the event to fans the organisation can lean on the high-profile players participating, but they also focus on creating a real buzz around it. They have created an event that is more than just the three days of play; it is a whole week of exciting events.
In the beginning of 2016 the event started to get media attention. And in August of the same year Rod Laver, Federer, Nadal, McEnroe and Borg held a major press conference to promote the event. Earlier in 2017 Berdych and Federer also held a promotional event in the host city Prague, even playing tennis on the Vltava river.
Team8, the agency that represents Roger Federer, is behind the creation of the competition and the Swiss himself is said to have played a big part in getting the event off the ground.
Federer’s involvement can also be seen in the cup’s sponsors. Rolex, the founding partner of the Laver Cup, has been working with Federer for many years. Just like Mercedes-Benz, which is a global sponsor together with financial company J.P. Morgan. Three of the four global suppliers also sponsor the Swiss.
The organisation has been able to give the event a clean and almost chic look (including black courts). In the week leading up to the event there were team presentations, press events and more. All part of the show that such events have to be these days.
At the stadium in Prague there is also a free fan zone where fans can:
- Buy refreshments
- View matches on a big screen
- Learn about Rod Laver, John McEnroe and Björn Borg in an exhibition
- Learn the history of the Laver Cup
- Follow practice sessions
- Take their picture with the Laver Cup (which has its own Mercedes-Benz car to get around)
Will the Laver Cup be a success?
It is hard to say whether the Laver Cup will give tennis fans joy for years to come. However, the organisation has done a lot to create buzz around the event and to give fans an exciting and good product.
Other sports, like golf, already successfully use the format of continents playing one another. Of course we have to wait and see whether this can translate to tennis.
When the first edition is successful it does not necessarily mean the Laver Cup is here to stay (although the plans are already there with the 2018 edition taking place in the US). The International Premier Tennis League’s first edition(s) was pretty successfull for example. But in the meantime the event is said to have money issues and it is a real doubt whether it will take place this year.
With so many new formats in tennis you have to wonder whether the sport really needs another format. Especially when you take into account how full the calendar already is.
As a team competition the Laver Cup could become an alternative or replacement for the Davis Cup. Which is a team competition between countries that has been getting a lot of criticism.
Like always it will take time to see whether the Laver Cup can really establish itself in the tennis market. Yet it seems to have the ingredients to give the fans an exciting new product.