From the Bench: Thomas Enqvist, vice captain Team Europe
Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist, together with Bjorn Borg, led Team Europe to a historic win over Team World at the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague. Ranked No.4 in 1999, Enqvist reflects on the Laver Cup experience and looks ahead to what we might see on the world tennis stage in 2018.
It was unbelievable working with my idol and now good friend Bjorn Borg for the first Laver Cup. Just to be part of that event for the first time and watch some of the best players who ever played this game, was a lot of fun and an unbelievable experience.
We never felt that Europe was so strong it would be easy to win the first Laver Cup. All the players are all so professional and know how well you need to be prepared to win. They may have been dominating for a long time but they really know how difficult it is. It might look easy but it is not easy. In a big international competition like the Laver Cup it is incredibly hard especially as the matches were short and the points changed each day, so things could change very quickly. We won quite a few more matches than Team World but in the end, it was leaning on one match.
I have had unbelievable feedback from people who saw the Laver Cup. They loved the concept; how competitive it was; how much dedication the players put into this. It could not have gone better. The matches were very quick. You could see that the players genuinely felt excited about the experience. The third set tiebreakers made it super quick and the players had to be on their toes from the first point. You don’t have enough time like a Grand Slam. The matches were flowing together very quickly so as a spectator it felt like one big match with different players.
Both John and Patrick really used the team spirit to their advantage. I’ve watched players from the World side play a lot and they are fantastic players, but I have never seen them play as well as they did against the European side. Not only one match, but for three days. They came very close to pulling off an upset.
Looking further back
I think about a Laver Cup when I played and I’m not sure I would have made the team! We had Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Bjorn Borg would still be captain. Goran Ivanisevic would be unbelievable in this event and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, he was a great doubles player as well as singles. I do respect tennis history. The Laver Cup is a celebration of the game itself and the past champions. To thank the players who played before us. Tennis is one of the most global and popular sports in the world, and it’s the players from the beginning who made this possible with the sacrifices they made. It’s important to remember this. When I grew up in Sweden, tennis was the most popular sport around with Borg and McEnroe at the top.
The Laver Cup introduced exciting changes like the tiebreaker sets and scoring format. We can’t close our eyes, we have to see what is going on and make changes but at the same time respect the traditions of the sport. It’s a fine line. Playing in Chicago will be very different because Roger Federer is popular wherever he goes so who will the home fans cheer for? In Prague the crowd was very fair and cheering for both teams. I expect the same in Chicago, they will feel how much the players want to win and feed off that. My brother lives in Chicago, so I know the city well although I never played there. It’s a lovely place, it can be windy but we will play indoors. There is so much history and culture.
It will be another fascinating year of tennis and a lot of things can happen, but I think some of the younger players like Dimitrov and Zverev will do well at Indian Wells. I think Roger and Rafa are still favorite to dominate this year, they are still the best two players in the world even though, as Roger himself says, there are a lot of players knocking on the door.
If Rafa is healthy he will dominate the clay-court season. I hope the elbow of Djokovic holds up and he finds his rhythm. There is nothing wrong with his game, the way he moves and hits the ball, but he needs to find his rhythm back in his serve. I think Thiem will have an unbelievable clay-court season and he is improving on the hard courts as well. He’s not there yet on the fast surfaces to go all the way, but if anyone can challenge on clay, Thiem is one of the guys who could beat Rafa.