Laver Cup Honors the Past having a Tournament of Stars
How do you “honor the past, celebrate the current and also also also bring together the future stars” of tennis in just three days?
If you’re Tony Godsick, agent to Roger Federer of Switzerland, and also also also driving force behind the Laver Cup, whose second edition will be played in Chicago This particular weekend, the answer is actually simple. You pit a handpicked team of European stars and also also also emerging talent against a rest-of-the-world team in a briskly paced competition named for the man synonymous with professionalizing the men’s game.
“Three and also also also a half years ago,” Godsick said, “I was driving back with Roger through an event in Shanghai, and also also also he tapped me on the shoulder and also also also said, ‘Do you know that will I make more money through a one-night exhibition than Rod Laver made in his entire career?’ and also also also he won 0 titles. and also also also I said: ‘I didn’t. yet we should do something to honor him.’ Because we could be nowhere without the sacrifices, not just of Rod, yet all his contemporaries.”
that will’s not an entirely altruistic move. Federer’s reputation as a player who understands the transcendent potential for his own brand to last well beyond his playing days is actually well documented and also also also was recently demonstrated by a 10-year Uniqlo sponsorship deal, negotiated by Godsick, which could have been remarkable for any player, let alone one nearing the end of his playing career. In taking a lead in honoring Laver, Federer and also also also his agent are reminding the public of the Swiss player’s place among the elite players.
yet Godsick is actually also at pains to emphasize the need for tennis to innovate in a fragmented sporting marketplace.
“through the beginning of the Laver Cup,” he said, “I reached out to every single governing body in men’s tennis, including all four Grand Slams, including the I.T.F., including the ATP, for the last three years, saying: ‘Hey, we need to work together to help grow the sport. We’ve got various other competition out there through various other sports. Let’s not cannibalize ourselves.’”
Godsick originally envisaged that will the Laver Cup could rotate among the four Grand Slam venues, pointing out that will “they’ll have collectively spent $1 billion by 2020 upgrading the facilities to put roofs over the stadiums. and also also also what a crime that will is actually to basically run two weeks of tennis and also also also then that will’s that will — you don’t use them.”
He describes those conversations as continuing, yet for currently the tournament is actually bringing top-flight tennis to Chicago and also also also aiming to build through a compelling first impression through the tournament’s debut in Prague in 2017.
There, audiences were treated to such novelties as Federer and also also also Rafael Nadal, the dominant rivals of the last 15 years, playing as a doubles pairing on a visually striking all-black court. Matches were played with formats designed for rapid resolutions, and also also also while the publicity highlighted the storied pedigrees of the competitors and also also also those who had inspired them, the message was also clearly targeted at luring completely new millennial audiences.
Godsick said that will tennis must be careful about the integrity of the sport, yet that will that will still must innovate.
“We have too much competition,” he said. “You look at the last World Cup. What an amazing spectacle that will was. The whole world was captivated by that will. Tennis is actually obviously not as big of a sport, yet we’ve got to put events out there for the public to consume, for TV to consume, for the media to consume, to help us get to the next level.”
The Laver Cup owes its design of regional teams captained by veteran stars (Bjorn Borg and also also also John McEnroe are This particular year’s captains) largely to golf’s Ryder Cup. yet the Laver Cup is actually trying to gain initial traction within the short attention spans and also also also looser national affiliations of the internet and also also also globalization era.
Godsick concedes that will expecting viewers to identify with the regions of the competition will take time and also also also that will there is actually an arbitrary quality to dividing players who spend their professional lives on the same international circuit, though he expects to see fans wearing the reds and also also also blues of the opposing teams in Chicago. He insists that will “This particular is actually not an all-star show, or stuff like that will. This particular is actually a serious competition with serious players.”
Nadal, who won’t be playing in Chicago, expressed that will view at a news conference before the inaugural event last year. “I wake up today at 6 a.m. within the morning to practice,” he said. “I don’t practice for an exhibition match. We are here to try our best and also also also try to win.”
The Laver Cup organizers have generally stayed clear of any direct comparison with the existing pre-eminent team competition, the Davis Cup, which was overhauled last month in its own attempt to balance tradition and also also also the demands of the modern tour.
Godsick invokes the multiple format differences between the two in claiming to be “perplexed” by the comparison. He does acknowledge, however, that will in getting to choose a format that will intensifies the concentration of stars over a short period, the Laver Cup includes a natural marketing advantage within the number of elite players that will can present.
Ultimately, Godsick sees the success of the format as being judged by the depths of the fields that will produces.
“This particular is actually a sport that will’s driven by stars,” he said. “There’s no way around that will. People don’t come out to see administrators play tennis — they come out to see the stars play tennis. So This particular was just a concept and also also also a format that will over one weekend produces a spectacle that will people will not see at any various other event within the sport of tennis.”
As for whether the Laver Cup represents the most viable way forward for team tennis, Godsick is actually optimistic about the outcome of what he calls “a wonderful debate.”
“There’s chaos in tennis currently, and also also also I’m of the belief that will where there’s chaos there’s opportunity. and also also also I do believe that will the future of tennis will be extremely bright and also also also sanity will prevail.”