by Craig Vickers
Criticism of the Laver Cup is growing but the event continues to go from strength-to-strength with the appearance of a glut of high profile stars.
The brain child of Roger Federer, the Team8 management company, and Tennis Australia, the annual competition will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, after previous stints in Prague and Chicago.
Team Europe, captained by tennis legend Bjorn Borg and headlined by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, will square off against Team World, captained by John McEnroe and spearheaded by the mercurial Nick Kyrgios.
The team aspect has been compared to the Ryder Cup in golf – which sees Europe clash with the USA – but it has attracted criticism for its position in the tennis calendar, with two ATP 250 events occurring simultaneously.
John Lupo, who covers the ATP Tour, has been highly critical of the competition since its introduction in 2017, saying: “The event would be better served to be at the end of the season when team events are traditionally staged.
“A lot of players are taking time to rest after the US Open for the last part of the season, with the Masters events in Shanghai and Paris.”
However, ATP CEO, Chris Kermode, has been a vocal advocate, commenting in May: “The Laver Cup has struck a chord with fans worldwide in a very short time. It’s been great to see the passionate participation of the players and the response from the fans at the sold-out events.
“The ATP is excited to include the Laver Cup as an official part of the ATP Tour calendar and have it featured alongside other tournaments on all our platforms.”
Fans have turned out in their droves at the past two editions, which have featured Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and the team element has seemed to invigorate Kyrgios, notorious for his bad behaviour on the singles court.
The creation of the event was widely seen as an attack on the Davis Cup, with its attraction waning among the top, ageing players, and as a result, it has created a conflict of interest between Federer and Kosmos, who have invested significantly in the new edition of the Davis Cup.
The debut of the revamped Davis Cup will be held at the Caja Magica in Madrid in November, but it is hard to imagine the event will hold similar levels of prestige with Nadal and Federer unlikely to feature.
Lupo believes the ATP ought to have made a concerted effort to preserve the Davis Cup. Instead, they have recently joined forces with the Laver Cup event.
He adds: “The event would have to last a number of years – and I’m sure the ATP will see to it that it does – to build up the same tradition and popularity that the Davis Cup previously had.
“I don’t deny the popularity of it, I don’t deny the commitment of the players, but to me, it just feels like a knock-off version of the Davis Cup.
“More than anything I’m just disappointed in the direction the ATP allowed the Davis Cup to take. I know I’m not the only part of the media that feels this way.”
The event kicks off on Friday with Austrian number one Dominic Thiem facing the electric Canadian Denis Shapovalov.