Chicago will host the '18 edition of the Laver Cup -- a new, all-star team tennis tournament -- "marking a significant coup for a city that rarely has occasion to stage major events that draw the sport's top athletes," according to Dawn Rhodes of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The event will be held at the United Center from September 21-23, 2018, according to news releases from the tournament and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office. The Laver Cup, named for Australian former tennis player Rod Laver, features two teams of six players: Team Europe vs. Team World. The format is three days of three singles and one doubles match. Each match is best-of-three sets with ad scoring, and a third-set tiebreaker to 10 points. The Laver Cup wrapped its inaugural edition in Prague, Czech Republic, on Sunday, headlined by the "wildly popular" Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland, currently the world's top-ranked players. Federer clinched a 15-9 victory for Team Europe in the last singles match by defeating Nick Kyrgios of Australia in a "dramatic" three-set contest. Europe and other world cities alternate venues in each edition (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/24). In London, Stuart Fraser wrote for those wondering if this weekend's inaugural Laver Cup was just another exhibition event, Nadal issued a "defiant riposte" on Friday. He said, "It is not an exhibition at all. We are here to try our best. I woke up today at 4am to practice. I don't practice before an exhibition match normally." It was "exactly the answer you would expect from a man being paid an appearance fee, believed to be in the high six figures, to participate in an event that is the brainchild of his archrival," Roger Federer. Although there was no prize money or ranking points at stake in Prague, there was "undeniably the sense" that this had "more meaning to it than your average hit-and-giggle." The "respect that Federer commands" helped, both in attracting players and sponsors -- Rolex and Mercedes-Benz among them -- to get on board. The initial impressions of this first-time event are of a "slick operation, from marketing to logistics behind the scenes at the O2 Arena" (LONDON TIMES, 9/23).
'UNFORGETTABLE': The AFP reported after Nadal and Federer won their singles rubbers, "all eyes at Prague's sold-out O2 Arena were then on the two legends who played on the same side of the net for the first time in careers which have stretched the best part of two decades." The pair "visibly enjoyed the experience, with Federer laughing off a massive air shot halfway through the set." But they both denied planning a future as a doubles pair, saying that it was "not a good idea." Federer told Nadal, "I don't want to kill your expectations." Nadal said, "It was unforgettable for both of us after the history we have behind us as rivals. Something we really enjoyed a lot" (AFP, 9/24). The INDIAN EXPRESS wrote it "goes without saying that witnessing the two greats playing together for Europe in Prague was a dream come true for fans." Fans across the globe loved the match and took to Twitter to share their excitement. While some said that they had been "waiting for it for 13 years," others said that "they need more of this" in their lives (INDIAN EXPRESS, 9/24).
They have sold out suburban grounds and now the Matildas are "looking to ride their wave of success by packing out Australia's major stadiums with blockbuster games" against the likes of the U.S. and England, according to Fiona Bollen of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Australia's women's football team has "locked in" friendly matches against China at Melbourne's 30,000-seat AAMI Park and Geelong's 34,000-seat Simonds Stadium in November. If the reaction is "anything like what happened in NSW last week," the Matildas will break the attendance record of 18,600 set by the Opals at the Sydney Olympics for a stand-alone women’s team sport. But Football Federation Australia officials are "dreaming a lot bigger." FFA is "continually holding talks" with the U.S. women's team to "tour Down Under." If that happens, "FFA has Australia’s big stadiums in sight." FFA Head of Women's Football Emma Highwood said, "If we can get a strong opponent, a U.S. or England, one of those kind of nations, and if we market it right, I think the interest would be there." Officials believe a big turnout at AAMI Park would "give them further confidence" that Sam Kerr and company "could draw bumper audiences" to Sydney's ANZ Stadium, Adelaide Oval, Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium or the Melbourne Cricket Ground (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 9/24).
NRL GRAND FINAL: In Melbourne, Chris Barrett reported a National Rugby League grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground would draw 100,000 spectators and "be one of the great events in the game's history," Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy argued. Ongoing delays in the finalization of the NSW government's Sydney stadiums plan have "left uncertainty about the location of the NRL competition's showpiece event in coming years" and the Victorian and Queensland governments are "ready to pounce" on any opportunity to host it. Donaghy believes the city is "ready to stage the premiership decider." He said, "If the decision was ever made to transfer the rights to the grand final and open it up to a tender process or bidding process, then absolutely Melbourne could host the grand final tomorrow" (THE AGE, 9/24).
Dozens of NFL players "knelt as their country's national anthem was played before a match at Wembley Stadium" on Sunday, according to Will Pavia of the LONDON TIMES. The demonstration came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump "denounced such protests and called on fans to boycott games." As many as 30 players and staff from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars "went down on bended knee" as the U.S. national anthem was played. Players and staff from both teams stood for "God Save the Queen" (LONDON TIMES, 9/24). In Washington, Cindy Boren reported when taking the field in London, "Ravens Coach John Harbaugh joined his players, linking arms, and Ravens Hall of Famer Ray Lewis took a knee." Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan, who contributed $1M to the Trump inauguration, "locked arms with his players and the Jaguars' coaches in what is believed to be the first visible participation in relation to anthem protests by a league owner" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/24). In London, Sean Ingle wrote "some say sport and politics should not mix." But after Trump's "explosive tweets" over the weekend, it was "impossible to see how the two were not conjoined." Jaguars player A.J. Bouye said, "I'm not going to lie. I was pissed off. I don't know the president as a man but what he's saying about us, he's disrespecting our moms." Meanwhile, Khan, the only non-white and only Muslim owner in the NFL, backed his players. Khan: "We have a lot of work to do but the comments by the president make it harder. That's why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that, even if we differ at times, we can and should be united in an effort to be better as people and as a nation" (GUARDIAN, 9/24).
Ireland's hopes of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup have been "given a significant boost from an unlikely source" -- France President Emmanuel Macron, according to the SUNDAY TIMES. The Irish Rugby Football Union is in competition with France and South Africa to run the tournament and an "important stage in the race" comes in London on Monday, when the final presentations of each are made to the World Rugby Council. On Friday, Macron "delivered a hammer blow" to the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and its president, Bernard Laporte, when he let it be known that he would not be "providing a video to support the French bid," as planned. According to French sources, Macron's absence can be interpreted as the president "distancing himself from Laporte," who is currently under investigation for financial corruption (SUNDAY TIMES, 9/24).
Switzerland, a country that banned motor racing in '55 "after the sport’s worst accident at Le Mans," will return to the int'l calendar next year with a round of the Formula E championship in Zurich, according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. The restrictions on circuit racing were lifted in '15 for fully-electric vehicles. FIA President Jean Todt said that the scheduling of the June 10 race "was the achievement of an important goal for the sport's world body." Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said, "This wouldn't have been possible without the core fundamentals of Formula E -- driving the electric revolution and sustainable mobility. Following the recent law changes this race was also made possible with the instrumental support of our Swiss partner, Julius Baer" (REUTERS, 9/21). DIGITAL TRENDS' Stephen Edelstein reported the Zurich race will be part of Formula E’s fourth season, which begins in December and "stretches" to the end of July '18. The season kicks off with a doubleheader in Hong Kong from Dec. 2-3. Other races will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco; Santiago, Chile; Mexico City; São Paulo, Brazil; Rome; Paris; Berlin; N.Y. (doubleheader); and Montreal, Canada (doubleheader). As automakers "gear up to build more electric road cars," Formula E is attracting increased attention from manufacturers. Audi will field its own Formula E team for the first time this season, and BMW will manufacture powertrains for the Andretti Autosport team in the '18-19 season. Mercedes-Benz and Porsche will also join the series in '19 (DIGITAL TRENDS, 9/22).