The second edition of the Laver Cup saw Team Europe retain their title after three days of drama, banter, meme-worthy videos and top-quality tennis.
The final task fell to Alexander Zverev, who defeated Kevin Anderson to complete a 13-8 win over the World team, thereby not needing the deciding match between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios.
The Laver Cup is a curious mix of an exhibition tournament, which has been widely accepted by fans and tennis players in a very short span. Co-founded by Roger Federer and featuring the biggest names in tennis – which has something to do with the popularity for sure – the tournament named after the great Rod Laver has all the ingredients of being a crowd-puller.
The three-day team event, which has been dubbed the Ryder Cup of tennis although it lacks the tradition of golf’s premier event, has seen 12 of the world’s top players square off against each other in a unique but no less competitive environment.
On black courts with blaring music and cameras and microphones everywhere, the tournament has given a peek into the minds and game of some of the top players. The format calls for shorter matches. If the players split sets, they go straight to a 10-point tiebreaker.
This year, the tournament was held in Chicago, with Bjorn Borg’s favoured Team Europe successfully defending their title against Team World, which was captained by John McEnroe.
Federer, Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin, Kyle Edmund and Jeremy Chardy formed Team Europe while Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios, John Isner, Frances Tiafoe, Kevin Anderson, Diego Schwartzman and Nicholas Jarry represented Team World.
Here’s a look at some of the most striking moments from Laver Cup 2018.
In 2017, the year of “Fedal”, Federer and Rafael Nadal playing doubles together was enough to ignite unprecedented interest in the inaugural Laver Cup. The world’s top two tennis players didn’t disappoint with the doubles pair providing the fireworks on court and banter off-court, including a few iconic social media GIFs.
This year saw Federer unite with another candidate of the GOAT debate – long-time rival Novak Djokovic, who made his Laver Cup debut. However, unlike Fedal, the “Djokerer” combination did not get a winning start as needed, as Sock and Anderson defeated the doubles dream team 6-7, 6-3, 10-6 on Friday.
But the result was not the highlight of that match, it was Djokovic hitting Federer with a full-blooded forehand.
Playing from the baseline, the Serbian hit one of his booming cross-court forehands...right into the lower back of Federer, who was near the net.
Federer wasn’t hurt by the shot and laughed it off, while Djokovic covered his face with his hands in embarrassment. “That’s why we don’t play doubles, right?” Federer joked in the break. The duo went on to crack more jokes about Djokovic trying to injure Federer and how Nadal was lucky to win his match with Federer last year.
It may not look like much but this banter, after years of intense battles and passive aggressiveness on court, is a brand new direction for Federer and Djokovic.
Coach Federer and Kyrgios
One of the many differences in Laver Cup is the team dugout where the players sit, emote and react during games. This dugout also facilitates mid-match coaching where not just the team captain, but also the teammates advise the players.
This novel move saw Federer strategise with Djokovic (yes, that happened) and even Kyrgios give technical coaching to his team.
But what many tennis fans were impressed by Coach Roger Federer talking to Alexander Zverev, who many single out as heir apparent to his throne. Federer spoke to him in both English and German, and one of the pieces that really stood out was the Swiss veteran talking about staying positive for the spectators. Learning tricks of the trade from the best!
Anderson getting one over Djokovic
Two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson was one of the biggest singles players in Team World and he lived up to the billing by reversing his Wimbledon finals loss to Novak Djokovic.
On Saturday, Team World bounced back from 1-7 down to go 5-7 in a stunning comeback. It was Anderson got the fight back started by upsetting reigning Wimbledon and US Open champ Djokovic 7-6, 5-7, 10-6.
This meant that Djokovic ended his first Laver Cup campaign without a win. However, the 14-time Grand Slam champion had plenty of praise for his team.
“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.
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,” he said.
Jack Sock, the best doubles player today?
Ranked No 2 in the world in doubles, Jack Sock is constantly called the best doubles player in the world today, many times in jest given his many early exits in singles despite being a top-20 player.
But the two-time Grand Slam winner showed that he is indeed a force to be reckoned with in doubles as he maintained an unbeaten record for Team World. He combined with Anderson to beat Federer and Djokovic, with Kyrgios to beat Dimitrov and Goffin and then with Isner to beat Federer and Zverev.
Sock had earlier won the US Open and Wimbledon double with partner Mike Bryan, one half of the record-breaking Bryan brother.