More than expectations, it’s been curiosity that has greeted the inaugural edition of the Laver Cup in 2017. The never-before-seen pairing of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a competitive arena – literally – taking on the world, then, added fervour to this inquisitiveness about the tournament.
On Saturday, when Federer and Nadal played doubles for Team Europe against Team World’s Sam Querrey and Jack Sock, thoughts whirred about a lot of details that otherwise get passed over as matter-of-fact detailing in doubles match-ups on the professional Tour and in the Slams. However, when it came to the Fedal partnership, it somehow seemed to matter more as to who would play on which side of the court, and who would cover the baseline and who would prowl at the net.
Strengths were aligned with weaknesses, before an idea was passed along that with the Swiss and the Spaniard having combined for 35 Grand Slams and a slew of other titles between them, what possible chink in their arsenal their opponents could be able to find?
In the end, the match turned out to be an entertaining affair that went the distance with a tie-break played after both teams split the first two sets. But the camaraderie that the world’s two best players shared on the court – from enthused shouts of encouragement to exhilarated fist-pumps – accounted for some good memories, the likes of which seem likely to last quite longer than the result itself.
Understanding the palpable emotions dotting their partnership, Federer and Nadal gave interest-piquing teasers about them teaming up. Even as it appealed to the audiences, this gesture from the players also heightened the interactive nature of the tournament, which has been visible on-court throughout the first two days.
“It was an unforgettable day,” said Nadal post-match, adding, “After the history behind us to be on the same part of the court fighting for the team is something we enjoyed a lot.” However, as satisfying as it was for their fans (and them) to have – finally – played together on the same side of the net, Federer and Nadal were also quick to mention this pairing as one-of-a-kind experience and not something one would be getting to see often on the Tour.
In the words of Federer, then, “We’re essentially singles players who play a bit of doubles and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Several inferences have been drawn, or have tried to be drawn from the Laver Cup – including the debate as to if it’s an exhibition or a uniquely competitive event. But this is the biggest takeaway that irrespective of the value-addition it is trying to bring to tennis as a whole, not much is going to change in the way players prioritise their respective careers.