Rafael Nadal insists the newly-introduced Laver Cup is not an exhibition — albeit needing to confirm that fact with his fellow Team Europe members first — while Team World captain John McEnroe is hoping the event will force the ITF to rethink the current Davis Cup format and introduce necessary changes.
The Laver Cup, which can be described as tennis’ answer to golf’s Ryder Cup, kicked off in Prague on Friday with Marin Cilic claiming a straight-sets win over Team World’s Frances Tiafoe, is an idea conceived by Roger Federer and his management company Team8.
Nadal, the current world No. 1, headlines Team Europe alongside Federer and four other players, captained by Bjorn Borg, while McEnroe has six players from Australia, USA and Canada, representing Team World.
The tournament is not part of the ATP or ITF, and has no ranking points. Asked if it should be considered an exhibition, Nadal said: “No, is not an exhibition at all. No, no, I don’t think, no, guys?
“No, we are here to try our best, no? I wake up today since 4:00 in the morning to practice. An exhibition match, I don’t practice before an exhibition match normally, no.
“We are here to try our best. We are here to try to win. Not at all like a friendly match, no? We are here to really play with passion and to play for our continent, no?
“We have a great team behind us. We want to do it well for all of them. Let’s see if we are able to do it.”
McEnroe is very much behind the idea of the event, which is set to be staged annually. This year’s tournament has come just one week after the Davis Cup semi-finals and play-offs, which didn’t feature many of the top players, who have struggled to commit to the inter-nation competition for quite some time now.
Many, including top players, have voiced their opinions about changes necessary to evolve Davis Cup and ensure they can take part during what is undoubtedly a jam-packed tennis calendar.
“I like the idea of what we are seeing, you know, bringing the best of the best together. I think we are all excited and hopeful that this is going to be successful and force some people to take a good, hard look at the rest of the schedule, too, with Davis Cup, for example, you know, which is such a big commitment that they need to make some changes,” said McEnroe in Prague on Thursday.
“I think you guys have been around a long time, and so you know that I have had a lot of history with Davis Cup. But I believe that they have been very slow in doing anything different, and so maybe this will push it along.
“Hopefully they both can do well, but I like the idea of this event quite a bit. You know, I’m an outsider looking in, not playing, but you have to ask the players what they think. But I believe that this is something that hopefully will be something that will be a big boost for tennis. The Laver Cup, I think this could be an incredible thing.”
The inaugural Laver Cup is taking place in Prague from Friday September 22 to Sunday September 24.
More details on the competition format can be found here.
* Video footage courtesy of Laver Cup.