The stars of Team World and Team Europe stepped into the Chicago sunshine on Wednesday as Laver Cup 2018 officially arrived with a spectacular player welcome ceremony.
Led by captains John McEnroe (Team World) and Bjorn Borg (Team Europe), the two lineups took to the stage at the iconic Pritzker Pavilion in the heart of downtown as Chicagoans got up close and personal with some of the world’s best players.
And center stage was one of the greatest of them all, Rod Laver, the winner of two calendar Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969, and the man whose achievements have been honored by the creation of the Laver Cup.
“I’m honored that my name is associated with this trophy,” Laver told the crowd. “It’s also a thrill to have the Laver Cup here in Chicago. You’ll see some wonderful tennis and a lot of camaraderie.”
The second instalment of the Laver Cup will see Team Europe defend the trophy they won in Prague 12 months ago, with 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer once again joined on the blue side by Alexander Zverev, as well as newcomers Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin, Kyle Edmund and 14-time major winner Novak Djokovic.
“At Laver Cup we’re a team. That’s exciting and something we’re not used to,” Federer said. “To be on the same team as these legends – and legends in the making – and to spend a week getting to know these guys, is a wonderful way to celebrate tennis.”
I wanted to be a part of it and have this great experience – Novak Djokovic
Added Djokovic: “Laver Cup has a great team spirit – something we’re missing a little bit on the tour. So it’s great to see this concept and this format working well, and I wanted to be a part of it and have this great experience.”
Trying to put last year’s disappointment behind them and claim the Cup for the red side will be John Isner, Jack Sock, Frances Tiafoe and Nick Kyrgios, with Kevin Anderson and Diego Schwartzman the new additions to Team World.
“I’m very much looking forward to coaching this team,” said McEnroe, sitting alongside his younger brother – and Team World vice-captain – Patrick.
“We’re excited about getting the home-court advantage, hopefully, in Chicago. It’s a great sports town and we’re looking forward to showcasing our talents here this weekend.”
And the Team World captain could not resist turning up the pressure, adding: “We have some worthy opponents but they look very, dare I say, beatable.”
A smiling Federer simply replied: “We’re ready.”
Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg, flanked by vice-captain and fellow Swede Thomas Enqvist, reinforced Federer’s message.
“Last year there was some unbelievable tennis played in Prague, we had a lot of fun and for me to spend a little time with these great players for a week was unbelievable,” said Borg. “It was a very close match, and this weekend I think there is going to be some great tennis and tight matches.
“But one thing I agree with John on is we are here to defend our title, and we’re going to keep the Cup in Europe.”
The schedule of play for the Laver Cup will be known on Thursday after captains reveal their team lineups for Friday’s matches, with two singles in the Day session (starting at 1pm) and a singles followed by doubles match in the Night session (starting at 7pm).