Roger Federer paid tribute to the great Rod Laver during the trophy ceremony after Team Europe clinched the inaugural Laver Cup with a 15-9 victory over Team World on Sunday in Prague.
In front of a sellout crowd at the O2 Arena in the Czech capital, Federer — the man behind the idea of the Laver Cup — edged past Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 7-6 (6), [11-9] to claim the title for the Europeans and avoid entering a deciding doubles set.
Rafael Nadal had lost his singles match to an inspired John Isner 7-5, 7-6 (1) in the previous clash of the day, and jokingly thanked Federer for sealing the deal for the team, admitting he was nervous about their prospects should play had gone to deciding doubles.
Federer, who says he thought of the idea of the Laver Cup to honour the legacy of the Australian legend, who achieved the Grand Slam twice in the 1960s.
“I had a vision once upon a time, that we should honour the great players of our sport because there’s only that many roles that a legend can have in our sport. Seems like coaching is one, and the Seniors tour or the Champions tour and I just thought it was not enough,” said Federer during the trophy ceremony.
“I felt like we needed to see the legends of our sport more frequently and I thought of who we’d like to thank — it’s not just the players that standing on court today. But there’s so many more that have paved the way for us, that we can enjoy playing in front of a crowd like yourself and earn a living and live our dream. Because I think for all of us all we wanted to do all our life is play tennis, and here we are so…
“And of course, the great man, Rod Laver. It’s so nice to see you here, healthy, in full flight watching all the matches, and being so happy to see us play. We battled hard and I hope you’re happy because I am extremely happy.
“So thanks for being here… and thanks for showing us class. We’ll try hard to represent the sport as good as we can. Thank you very much.”
A devastated-looking Kyrgios got emotional after losing the close battle with Federer, perhaps dispelling any concerns about how serious the players were taking this new tournament.
“Yeah, it was tough. When I’m playing for myself, you know, sometimes I don’t put the greatest effort in when I play on my own. When I play with these guys and I’m playing for something as a team, I’m not just playing for myself out there. I’m playing for the whole team,” said Kyrgios.
Team World will be just fine… they’re also potential contestants on the X Factor pic.twitter.com/0lAt3UQZwT
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) September 24, 2017
“It’s the same in Davis Cup. I’m playing for the country, playing for the guys on the bench. I know that every single one of these guys up here has put effort into this week, whether that’s practice, supporting other guys.
“You know, Johnny Mac supporting us, P-Mac helping us with everything. We all bought in as a team. That’s why it hurt. I gave everything I had. I came short, and I knew that we were going to be favourites going to the doubles. That was in the back of my mind.
“Yeah, it just hurt because I knew I didn’t want to let these guys down. I wanted to come through but I didn’t. Yeah, that’s why I got a bit emotional out there.”
Set to be an annual event pitting a team representing Europe and a team representing the rest of the world, the Laver Cup will head to the United States next year and will be staged in Chicago.