The inaugural Laver Cup tennis event got under way Friday in Prague, and the event "inspired" by the Ryder Cup is being "played on a black, indoor hardcourt in a sold-out O2 Arena," according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. The event, named for HOFer Rod Laver, will be held "every year except when there is a Summer Olympics." The event was developed by Roger Federer and his agent, Tony Godsick, and pits a European and World team against each other. However, there are "legitimate questions and concerns about the Laver Cup," an event "essentially imposed on a sport that has long had an overstuffed schedule." With the USTA and Tennis Australia "supporting the Laver Cup, the event could also harden battle lines" with the ITF, which is "trying to preserve and revamp Davis Cup." Federer and Godsick "insist that they don’t view the Laver Cup as a rival to Davis Cup," but the Davis Cup semifinals and World Group qualifying round were "played just last weekend, and the game’s biggest stars did not take part" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21). Clarey writes "plenty remains uncertain," including "how much the players will truly care about the result, and how vocal the sellout crowd in Prague’s O2 Arena will be." So this is "not quite the clash of the tennis titans that Federer and his agent ... envisaged when they created this team tournament" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/22).
ZERO-SUM GAME? In London, Mike Dickson wrote Federer "needs to win some powerful sceptics over." The ATP also does "not like this event because it goes up directly against two of their official tournaments." ATP Exec Chair & President Chris Kermode and ITF President David Haggerty have both "declined invitations to attend." Meanwhile, Wimbledon officials are upset because they were "kept completely in the dark until its announcement eighteen months ago, and they are not a part of it" (London DAILY MAIL, 9/21). Also in London, Charlie Eccleshare noted despite the difficulties with the various organizations, the participation of Federer and Rafael Nadal means it is "possible that this could be the all-star international team tournament that tennis has been lacking in the last 20 years or so" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/21).
MATCH POINT: In San Diego, Bryce Miller noted the Laver Cup features a "unique format" in that "wins increase in value daily." There will be "three singles matches and one doubles match each day." Winners on Friday "earn one point for their teams," while "wins on Saturday are worth two points." The final day on Sunday is "worth three points." The Europeans "enter as enormous favorites," as five of their six players are in the ATP Top 10. The world team "features nary a player" in the Top 15 (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/20). TENNIS.com's Peter Bodo wrote if this competition "appears to mean something to the players, it will mean something to those watching." Bodo: "It’s why so many exhibitions fail, and why 'real' tennis is so compelling" (TENNIS.com, 9/19).