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Laver Cup Roundtable — What’s New After Edition Number 2

Tennis Accent Staff

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Laver Cup via Twitter

QUESTION: What did the second installment of the Laver Cup do to change, affirm, or add to your thoughts about the event after the first installment in 2017?

NOTE: You can find the Tennis With An Accent Laver Cup Podcast here, with Saqib Ali and Matt Zemek. The co-hosts of the podcast, which is produced by RadioInfluence.com, spend roughly 25 minutes discussing ways to improve the event and also generate more transparency from its organizers and backers. They end with a segment on Mikhail Youzhny, who played his last match this past week.

NOTE No. 2: The TWAA Podcast has its first sponsor, Vivid Seats [on Twitter at @VividSeats], which you can use to buy tickets to tennis tournaments and other sports or entertainment events.

Open and use the Vivid Seats app here. We have a deal to offer you through Vivid Seats: Get 10 percent off your first ticket purchase at Vivid Seats by using the promo code INFLUENCE. Our Vivid Seats sponsorship came to TWAA through our partnership with Radio Influence.

Now, to the roundtable…

NICK NEMEROFF — @NNemeroff

My biggest takeaway from the Laver Cup was its representation of the beauty of competition.

There were no points on the line, but with the appropriate competitive environment fostered, the competitive spirits of the world’s best players were ignited.

The level of effort, the intensity and passion from both teams were undeniable. This is an event that, within in its first two years of inception, has been a tremendous success.

Following the event, the two final players who experienced losses, Kevin Anderson and John Isner, were visibly devastated.

Debating whether the Laver Cup is an exhibition or not is, in my opinion, an unproductive use of time.

The event, regardless of how it is defined, means a lot to the players and has produced tremendous tennis and drama over the first two years.

The Laver Cup weekend has immediately become one of my favorite weekends of the entire tennis season.

ANDREW BURTON — @burtonad

The second Laver Cup, concluded Sunday evening in Chicago with a win for Team Europe, was in many respects similar to the first cup held last year in Prague.  Most importantly, for the second year running, it succeeded as a sporting contest.

As in the first event, the players competed hard throughout, belying the “exhibition” description applied to the young competition. Last year Nick Kyrgios had to be consoled by team mates when he lost the final match to Roger Federer after holding a match point: this time around John Isner and Kevin Anderson were the players who looked ashen faced during the trophy ceremony. Isner had failed to convert three match points earlier in the day against Federer, while Anderson looked the sharper and more aggressive player against Sascha Zverev, only to let a 7-5 advantage in the match tiebreak (first to 10) slip away.

As before, Team World faced an uphill task given the team selections, but far outshone their more storied (and older) opponents in sideline energy and captain’s participation. The “Big 3” pairing of Federer and Djokovic was a bit less successful than last year’s Federer-Nadal doubles, but Novak tagging Fed supplied some laughs on Day 1.

As before, the deceptively clever format, with ascending points for match wins, kept the outcome tight until the last two ties went to Europe. The slate grey court worked again, and the energetically partisan crowd played its part.

This time around, the Laver Cup wasn’t a completely unknown quantity — but a year is an eternity in the minds of most tennis journalists and commentators, whose guiding principle is almost invariably “What have you done for me lately?” Many writers seemed surprised by the level of tennis, by the players’ commitment, by the crowd’s fervor, and even their own enjoyment. They were like a spouse dutifully attending a party at their partner’s request, then coming away saying what a great time they had .

We don’t know yet if the Laver Cup will ultimately cement its place in the tennis calendar, but it’s got two successful team events under its belt. Were you not entertained?

BRIANA FOUST — @4TheTennis

The second edition of the Laver Cup showed that tennis can be a must-attend event in the United States once again. Chicago, a city that has not seen professional tennis in 20 years, boasted attendance levels of 34,000 people after the first two days of results, and 93,584 for the three-day weekend across five separate ticketed sessions, an average of 18,717 fans per session in a building whose seating capacity for hockey is 19,717. That is a wonderful sight after seeing smaller tour events leave the Americas for more popular locations around the world.

The level of tennis remained high throughout the weekend, but the doubles matches are what kept my attention the best. Jack Sock was an absolute phenom in doubles and it was a treat to see him outplay everyone on the court, including Roger Federer, in hopes of giving Team World the edge on the scoreboard. If I could change one variable for the third edition next year in Geneva, I would add a fan vote system to help determine the pool of players on both teams to create some variety.

Overall I think Laver Cup was a successful event once again. I would like to see its place in the calendar be reassessed now that Davis Cup and Fed Cup have been restructured. I’m not sure what the shelf life of Federer’s career will have on Laver Cup’s future, but for now he has gotten his fellow players to buy into his concept.

MATT ZEMEK — @mzemek

I wrote a full column on one specific facet of Laver Cup: Being able to matter-of-factly observe the tournament — if you bothered to watch it — and honor the way the players approach the event. Honestly observing the on-court event enables a person to separate the on-court product from the off-court questions one can (and should) legitimately bring to the table.

In this roundtable, I won’t repeat anything I said in the column. I will instead touch on some of the thoughts I offered with Saqib in the podcast linked to at the start of this piece, and add a few more notes which came to mind over the course of the weekend:

— As Andrew Burton said in a private conversation last week, why not have the WTA join Laver Cup?

The WTA has so many good and interesting players who can similarly be divided between Europe and the World. Tennis’s charm is that its biggest events have the two genders together. Why not extend that to Laver Cup and add to the event’s uniqueness? Hopman Cup is a light exhibition played just before a major tournament, the Australian Open. Laver Cup can occupy a more unique space by bringing in the WTA in a joint event. This won’t happen in 2019, but it could in 2020, and those talks should start sooner rather than later.

— With or without the WTA, the scoring format for the event should be modified to more closely follow the Ryder Cup, the event after which the Laver Cup is modeled in a number of fundamental ways.

The escalating point format — one on Friday, two on Saturday, three on Sunday — enhances drama, but in an artificial way. It is clear that organizers want Sunday to be a “live” day for ticket sales and TV ratings. The current point format increases the chances Sunday matters. However, if this event wants to build real stature (which is something that can’t exist just because people want it to be important, or just because media commentators say so), it will have the confidence needed to stand on its own and accept the possibility that Sunday might not be live… or very long.

The Ryder Cup scoring system is such that matches can and do end in ties, with one point halved between players or teams who split holes in four-ball or match-play formats. The Ryder Cup was lopsided in its infancy, but when the weaker side (Europe, playing against the powerful United States) got better, the event exploded into popularity. Laver Cup, which achieved the goal of creating maximum drama in its first two years, can now adjust and focus on creating a format in which fewer people can accuse organizers of trying to “engineer” or “manufacture” drama.

Very simply, have players play two sets and no supertiebreakers. If they split sets, the match is “halved” as in Ryder Cup. Every match is worth one and only one point.

What this means: Matches will be even shorter than they already are, which means that five matches can be packed into one day of play — two day matches, three evening/night matches. If the WTA was brought in, the idea of a five-match order of play would make total sense: one mixed doubles, one men’s doubles, one women’s doubles — with elite doubles players, by the way, not singles players winging it — and then two women’s singles and two men’s singles matches rounding out each day’s card.

— For 2020, an Olympic year, there should be no Laver Cup.

The calendar will be too crowded, for one thing. Second, playing every other year is what the Laver Cup’s long-term strategy should be, even though Tony Godsick told Christopher Clarey of the New York Times that he wants the event to be an annual thing. Playing every other year puts Laver Cup in line with Ryder Cup. Players won’t be overburdened on an annual basis to play this event, and can give themselves to other special tournaments or to the regular tour in the off years.

— If the Laver Cup DOES play in 2020, as I think it probably will, it should go to South America.

The Olympics will be in Tokyo, so Asia gets a big tennis event in 2020. With Europe hosting every other Laver Cup and the United States getting this 2018 event in Chicago, and with Australia having one of the four majors, South America makes complete sense as the continent for the 2020 LC if Godsick insists on playing it every year.

Suggestions: Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; Montevideo, Uruguay; Asuncion, Paraguay.

— So the USTA, not just Tennis Australia, is an investor in Laver Cup. Tell us where the money is going.

Laver Cup organizers should set a healthy example in tennis, at a time when tennis needs more transparency. Obviously, people have a right to make a buck and should make a buck, but if national associations are part of this, there is an added and special obligation to be accountable for these dollars, as is true for the Gerard Pique-Kosmos venture. There needs to be a balance between the serving of public and private interests on a general level, but this need becomes a lot more acute when organizations connected to the major tournaments want to get a piece of the pie.

The Tennis With An Accent staff produces roundtable articles and other articles with group input during the tennis season. Staff articles belong to the TWAA family of writers and contributors, as opposed to any individual commentator. Our staff produces roundtables every week of the tennis season, so that you will always know what the TWAA staff thinks about the important tennis topics of the times.

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