The Laver Cup ended today with what was probably the best day of matches. Team World mounted a furious fight back, with John Isner leading the way by defeating Rafael Nadal in straight sets. Have I ever seen John Isner play with such crisp hitting and great movement from the back of the court? Never. It is funny what team spirit can do for a player. What about Roger Federer. With an entire continent’s hopes on his shoulders, he played perhaps the match of the tournament against Nick Kyrgios to win the Laver Cup for Team Europe.
These have been three very memorable and fun days to be a tennis fan. So what are my biggest takeaways from the event now that it is over? Let’s get started.
Every Rising Star Needs This
What impact this tournament had on the likes of Denis Shapovalov, Dominc Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Frances Tiafoe and Nick Kyrgios, is left to be seen. However, I can assure you it has left an indelible mark on these young players, one way or another. To be surrounded by that much greatness while getting a first-hand glimpse into the champions’ mindset – seeing how they prepare for matches, their focus, their zeal, their energy, and their decision-making – is priceless. They now have the experience of leaving it all on the line and tasting sweet victory or bitter defeat. I was particularly impressed by Nick Kyrgios’s tears. For the first time, I felt he really wanted to win badly and couldn’t. Maybe it is not the first time, but I believe it is the first time he’s let it show publicly. I hope this tournament liberates the champion lurking deep inside of him and the rest of his peers.
Speaking of Champions…
It was lovely to see Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe renew their rivalry, albeit in a different way. Borg has not lost his icy personality. You never saw any panic on his face, even when Nadal went down to Isner, even as Team World began to close the yawning gap Team Europe had built between them. With John McEnroe, you saw everything. You saw the anguish, the joy, the elation and the disappointment when Kyrgios netted that last forehand into the net on match point. In a way, JMac is an elderly Nadal, as Borg is an elderly Federer. Fire and Ice. These elements always reincarnate from generation to generation. While watching the differences in personalities, it suddenly dawned on me that the four participants in the two greatest finals of all time were in the same tournament, at the same time. It doesn’t get more surreal than that.
How the mighty are fallen
It was also lovely to see Rod Laver so visibly moved by a tournament created to honor his life and career. It was an eye-opening moment too. Here was a tournament created to honor a man who would have represented Team World in his prime, and won by Team Europe. It shows just how much tennis has changed over the last seventy years or so. Where are the Team World champions? It just hit me that in the last fourteen years Team World has produced just three grand slam champions. Andy Roddick, Gaston Gaudio, and Juan Martin Del Potro. Whatever happened, the result was clearly on display in this tournament. Team World needs to do some serious introspection and rehabilitate its tennis program. Where are the champions going?
The Laver Cup is here to stay
I approached this tournament with a lot of skepticism. I move on from it, a convert. This tournament, if managed well, could take tennis to new heights. The scoring format allows for a degree of seriousness other exhibitions don’t have, the money is well worth it and the pedigree of the tournament – founded to honor The Rocket – makes it one to be taken seriously by many top stars of the game. The added bonus of the tournament hosting being rotated globally is crucial to spreading the game to parts of the world where it is still not popular.
Congrats to Team Europe, and see you in Chicago next year!