By Sharada Iyer — Tennis With An Accent
At the start of the Laver Cup, two questions remained at the forefront of its audience’s minds. The first was how would the event shape up to be with only the youngsters taking up the mantle for Team Europe. Would Team World have a chance to win the cup for the first time in four years? The second question was how would the event even look in the absence of one of its founders – Roger Federer?
In the end, both of these questions received a comprehensive reply.
Not only did the youngsters-led Team Europe complete the “four-peat” but they also did so in the most emphatic manner that the four-year tournament had ever seen. Team World won one point on the first day – when John Isner and Denis Shapovalov beat Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev. As it turned out, it was the only point that they would across the three-day event with Europe completing a 14-1 whitewash.
As regards the second query, the fait accompli that Federer wouldn’t be there in Boston didn’t turn out to be one, after all. The Swiss surprised everyone by turning up in the US, a few days after his third surgery on his right knee. He was walking on crutches – as he’d said while announcing he was opting for surgery, post-Wimbledon – and was limited to watching the action from the stands. He was like a welcome guest, not unlike Rod Laver for whom the tournament is named.
Now, pausing to reconsider, in the aftermath of the 2021 edition of the Laver Cup, the answering of these questions doesn’t resemble a full-stop in itself. Rather, it makes for a segue about the event’s, and Federer’s future — the latter not only with respect to the Laver Cup but also in terms of his involvement in the sport itself, after his playing days whenever that eventuality comes to pass.
On the tour, Federer’s name’s synonymous with constancy and consistency. Even now, when he’s been forced out of commission with injury, surgery and rehab, his records are weathering the gale called time and living to tell the tale. In 2021, a blink-and-you’ll-miss tennis season didn’t stop the Swiss from adding more numbers to the already-impressive tally he’s accumulated over the years.
On the other hand, the Laver Cup’s a study in contrasts. The only constancy the event has – apart from Team Europe’s run of wins – is the variable nature of the competition. The dependency on ranking-based entry ensures that most players twirl through the tournament each year, as though it were a revolving door. Yet, it’s for this reason that the tournament has become an indelible part of the calendar.
Newer players arrive and then get assimilated into its verve, pile on the entertainment across three days and then move on, not knowing whether their busy schedule – and rankings – will permit them to opt for this weekend endeavour over an actual event on the tour.
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev made near-similar points when talking about their experiences at the Laver Cup.
The former, who was playing the tournament for the second time (after his debut in 2019) said, “I’d like to thank all of my teammates. They have all been kind of my rivals, and it is nice to see that now we get to be part of one team and aim for the same goals and for the same things. It has been more than a pleasure to be fighting for this trophy, and I think what is the most important and what stands out this week (are) the memories that we have built and formed together.”
Rublev, who made his debut for Team Europe this year, mentioned, “It’s something that is going to stay forever with me and be a special moment. For sure, I’m going to miss this week a lot.”
Looking back, aspects such as “memories” and “moment” weren’t part of the Laver Cup world prior to its start. Nonetheless, these are answers the unorthodox event has provided without one even asking for them.
Going forward, these are also the perspectives that stand to matter the most when discussing the Laver Cup. That it’ll endure, regardless of which team wins. And as far as Roger Federer’s presence in the event’s concerned, irrespective of how he makes his return to the event – as a player or as a mentor – he’ll continue to build on to its continuity, much like adding chapters to his legacy on the circuit.