Inside Team Europe: Rivals get closer
Novak Djokovic described it as “a perfect tennis dream” after his first Laver Cup experience ended in victory for Team Europe in Chicago.
The Wimbledon and US Open champion played his part supporting from the sidelines on Day 3 as his teammates secured a 13-8 victory, meaning he was not required to play the final match.
And although he might not have put a point on the board over the three days, Djokovic relished the chance to play alongside rivals and legends in the team environment.
“I think having a legend, Bjorn Borg, sitting on the bench and having Roger and the other guys supporting you after every single point, standing up and cheering you on, and having John McEnroe on the opposite bench, you know, it’s quite unique,” he said.
“I have experienced a lot and I have been really blessed to play this sport in high levels for so many years.
“But to talk with Roger about different things related to tennis, life, family, football, and the other guys just joking around and dancing to Grigor’s music, enjoying Kyle’s singing and following Jeremy everywhere he goes, yeah, it was a lot of fun.
I really hope that we can have another chance to get together
“I really hope that we can have another chance to get together.”
Federer, the driving force behind the original Laver Cup concept, pinpointed the presence of Djokovic as his highlight of the 2018 tournament.
The pair have been involved in one of the sport’s greatest rivalries for over a decade, and yet their time in Chicago was altogether different.
“I have enjoyed spending time with Novak,” said the Swiss. “I said it in the beginning that we have had an intense rivalry over the years.
Just seeing what a leader also Novak can be, it’s been really nice and refreshing for me – Roger Federer
“I always thought we got along well and respect each other on and off the court but being able to support him, him supporting me, going through that process and talking tactics, talking team, talking who should play and just seeing what a leader also Novak can be, it’s been really nice and refreshing for me.
“I won’t say it’s going to rejuvenate our rivalry, and I hope we will play many more times, but it’s been nice on many levels.”
Federer set up Europe’s victory by saving three match points against John Isner on Sunday, and that left Alexander Zverev to clinch the winning point with victory over Kevin Anderson.
The German’s joy was short-lived as he was quickly swamped by celebrating teammates.
“It was pretty good until I had about 600 kilos of weight on me,” joked Zverev. “I was like, ‘Just get the hell off me!’
“No, it felt good. Obviously it was an amazing feeling.”
Captain Borg was a calming figure throughout, but his passion for the Laver Cup and affection for his team shone through.
“We have so much fun together,” said the Swede.
“I mean, that’s very important. Outside the court, you have to laugh and to get the feeling together, to get that team spirit. When we are on the court, we are very serious. We know what to do. Everybody’s involved with the matches.
“You know, next year in Geneva, Switzerland, they are not going to take the Cup from us. I’m telling you. We are going to keep the Cup, believe me.”