Chicago Takes it’s Place on the Tennis Stage

Posted on August 28 2018

September will see the second edition of the Laver Cup played out in Chicago, but can the Europe vs the World tournament become a jewel in the tennis calendar? Last year, the tournament benefited from the novelty of the format, most noticeably seeing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play doubles together. There still remain questions over whether the tournament is much more than an exhibition though, and this year will be vital in the tournament’s development.


Star attraction, and strong supporter of the Laver Cup, Roger Federer is quoted by Tennis World USA as saying, “last year it was a success, even more successful than we thought it was gonna be… this year we do know what to expect and it could be even plus more.”


Certainly, Chicago seems like an astute place to hold the event. While the US holds many of the biggest tournaments in tennis, Chicago, a sports mad city, and the third most populous city in the States, does not host any big tournaments. So bringing the likes of Federer, who has never played in Chicago, to the second city is bound to put bums on seats in the arena, but can the tournament peak the interest of the TV audiences?


For the inaugural 2017 edition, Team Europe fielded Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, and Tomas Berdych, a formidable team with 5 top 10 players. Team World on the other hand were represent by Sam Querrey, John Isner, Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, none of whom were top 10 players at the time. This was reflected in a fairly convincing victory for Europe, but this year looks set to be much more balanced. Europe will be represented by Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin, and Kyle Edmund, ranked number 2,4,6,8,10 and 16 respectively. This does not stack up too badly against Juan Martin Del Potro (3), Kevin Anderson (5), John Isner (11), Diego Schwartzman (13), Jack Sock (18), and Nick Kyrgios (30). So we have some star names, the potential for some close games, and a couple of Americans for the locals to get behind, so why wouldn’t it be a success?


As we often bang on about, the tennis calendar is jam packed with well established, high quality tournaments, week in week out. Unquestionably, the most important tournaments are the four Grand Slams, and so, every player is going to be looking to peak for those tournaments. A new competition must select its dates very carefully so as not to clash with any of the other large tournaments, and the Laver Cup has found its place in September, a couple of weeks after the US Open. This really isn’t ideal for a competition with the ambitions of the Laver Cup. With the US Open just finished, and the players probably coming back from a little break after the emotional and physical travails of a Grand Slam schedule, the Laver Cup begins to look like a bit of an exhibition, where the world’s top guys can have a little fun and get back into the swing of things.


Unfortunately for the Laver Cup, it can’t do anything about the tennis schedule, so they have to make do with what they’ve got. That is star names, and a format with the potential to appeal to a large audience. It’s not realistic for a tournament to be created and it to automatically be the tournament that everyone wants to win; that takes time. While it has its issues, particularly the imbalance between the talent available to the two teams, it’s got something that can be built on. The tournament will need astute management as it continues to develop, but it has a chance of success.


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