Just how necessary was the Laver Cup?
The lavishly staged Laver Cup premiered this weekend in the O2 Arena in Prague. Team Europe beat Team World in a dull series of matches over three days, only to enhance the oh-so elite dominance of European male tennis players. The only highlight was the double debut of tennis alpha-males Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who almost playfully defeated American duo Sam Querrey and Jack Sock on Saturday night. Sports Gazette and Germany’s well known tennis commentator Marcel Meinert discussed if the Laver Cup is really worth the hype.
“It was pretty clear that Team Europe will dominate from early on. The probability of Federer and co. winning was 80%”, said Meinert, tennis commentator for Sky Sport Germany. Comparing the two teams you can immediately tell where he was coming from.
Team Europe captained by Swedish former world number one Björn Borg included the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych.
Their combined prize money is astonishingly 70 times higher compared to that of Team World, lead by the legendary John McEnroe.
Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios, John Isner, Sam Querrey, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe knew a hard weekend, not even adding to ATP points, was lying ahead.
In a sport where European dominance is crystal clear, it was certainly not needed to introduce a “Europe against the rest of the world format”. It pretty much resembles the overall vibe in the light of Brexit and other global segregation movements - not to mention “Trumpland” drifting away from the rest of the world.
The format is sexy, indeed, with its glamorous staging and short length. Yet, Sky commentator Meinert sees an underlying problem: “If you have five editions of this tournament - or let’s say even three - and team world wins only four matches, then you have a big problem.”
As appealing it might be seeing power couple “Fedal” in action, a tournament so predictable will be hard to sell. Meinert explains that the viewing figures for “the sports equivalent to a solar eclipse” were poor in Germany: “It is the same problem we have at the Ryder Cup, the pairings are announced on match day so there is little time for promotion. No one really new, except maybe people that are really into tennis.”
Besides continental segregation and predictability, the Laver Cup - named after Australian record champion Rod Laver - faces another major problem: timing!
In an already over-crowded calendar there is little space to fit in another tournament. Squeezed in on a weekend right after the US Open and Davis Cup world group play-offs the players get little time for recovery. “Last year Zverev had played in St Petersburg around this time, for example, and if the Laver Cup stays in this September week it is a clear deficit for everyone competing in other tournaments”, agrees Meinert.
Overall, the Laver Cup has achieved what the Davis Cup has been trying to for over a century. The organisers, including Roger Federer’s company TEAM8 Brazilian business man and former tennis player Jorge Paulo Leeman and Tennis Australia, have staged a wonderfully pompous and attractive tournament with the biggest names in tennis. Meinert knows “everything Federer touches turns into gold”.
If the format continues to appear in the next years it might be useful to bear in mind that female tennis players have also started to accumulate a lot of viewing figures. Meinert also finds that “having the likes of Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova competing would really help the tournament becoming more interesting”.
But evaluating the Laver Cup in sporting value only, Sky expert Marcel Meinert and the Sports Gazette agree that another tennis tournament was definitely not needed.