Bringing multiple generations of tennis legends together and inspiring rivals to team for the first time, the Laver Cup always promised to be transformative, and players who took part in Prague spoke warmly about rich memories created leading into and throughout the three-day competition.
For Czech Tomas Berdych, a special chapter was created as the innovative Laver Cup launched in his hometown. “It’s definitely going to be good memories. I think this is a huge event, which I think we all can be honored that the first year has been happening in Prague,” said the popular local. “I think we all should be proud.”
Others were simply delighted to be a part of such a ground-breaking first year. “It’s been incredible,” said Sam Querrey as the Laver Cup unfolded. “Everyone on Team World loves the event. We have only been saying positive things.”
There are 65 Grand Slam singles titles across several eras shared between Laver, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Team Europe members Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Marin Cilic. Younger players working to replicate such achievements relished their time.
“Obviously the atmosphere here, playing on court, the support I get from the legends, as well, it’s quite amazing. I think it’s the only event where you’ll have that,” said Europe’s fast-rising world No.4 Alexander Zverev. “But also outside of the court, just hanging around those guys. Being able to have dinners, to be in contact with them is quite amazing.”
Denis Shapovalov, just 18-years-old, understood he’d experienced an early peak in his career. “I was playing in front of guys like Rod Laver and Roger and Rafa, all of them sitting there watching me. Just this event, it’s such an honor to be part of (it),” said the awestruck Canadian. “It’s what I grew up wanting to do, play on the big stages. Rogers Cup, US Open, playing for Davis Cup, and this event. These are just dreams come true.”
Jack Sock described his week in Prague as “one of best events of the year already,” explaining that he and other Team World players had experienced an unforgettable time.
“In our locker-room and our dinners and pre-match and during the matches and our bench and everything, 100 per cent, I think you could ask any of the guys that it could potentially be our favorite week of the year so far,” the American said.
If there was fun on the sidelines there was also tangible support, Marin Cilic explaining the benefits of the collaborative approach. “Obviously in Grand Slams you are there on your own. Over here is more a team, team is in the first spot as a priority – everyone together, practicing, exchanging some experiences and discussing what is best,” he said.
Dominic Thiem, who won a hard-fought first match against John Isner to earn an early point for Team Europe, had to agree after his time alongside captain Borg. “To have an absolute legend on the bench with me, and then I got advice from Roger and Rafa, I mean, you cannot be higher in tennis,” the Austrian enthused.
Few relished the experience more than Nick Kyrgios, who stood up as a natural leader. Inspiring raucous celebrations and often speaking about the special spirit that existed among close friends, the Australian also drew on an untapped source in captain McEnroe.
“It’s been awesome,” Kyrgios said of the American’s influence throughout the week. “I think we can relate on many things. He’s been a great help for me (he) gets where I’m coming from on most things. It’s pretty refreshing having someone that actually understands where I’m coming from.”
Federer, a driving force in the Laver Cup’s creation, was thrilled to see his dream to honor greats of previous generations come to fruition. “It’s super emotional. It’s intense. That’s what we like about it,” said the Swiss. “It’s really, really exciting to see Bjorn (Borg) and John (McEnroe) back in the game and honoring the great man in Rod Laver who we all look up to.”