A Promising Debut for the Laver Cup, Buoyed by Two Timeless Stars

After all, the Laver Cup is technically an exhibition, even if it hardly felt like one. It offers no rankings points and has no official tour sanction, although it did offer major financial incentives to attract the stars. The taut matches played here will not — at least not yet — be part of the official record maintained by the ATP Tour.

Nor will Federer and Nadal’s first and perhaps only appearance as a doubles team, which was a feel-great moment on Saturday night for just about everyone except Jack Sock and Sam Querrey, the duo they so narrowly defeated.

But none of that means the sport should ignore what transpired in Prague in an O2 Arena that was sold out for all five sessions, drawing 83,273 fans over the event’s three days. Next stop: the United Center in Chicago in September 2018.

“You’ve got to be an idiot if you don’t think this is something that could be great for tennis,” said John McEnroe, the former world No. 1 who was a very engaged and sometimes profane captain for Team World. “I can’t imagine there’s a player that played — or didn’t play, for that matter, and watched it — who wouldn’t think this is something we should be supporting.”

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Federer received a hug from Rafael Nadal after defeating Nick Kyrgios to clinch the trophy.

Credit
Michal Cizek/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

That sounded like heat-of-the-moment optimism in a sport that remains deeply and perhaps permanently fragmented, with too many management companies and governing bodies guarding their piece of the action and gumming up the work of change.

Tennis Australia and the United States Tennis Association, the governing bodies for the sports in two nations that host Grand Slam events, were on board here as investors and partners. But the ATP Tour and the International Tennis Federation, which runs Davis Cup, were not.

“This is just a journey for us, the building of a new brand and building something for the sport,” said Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia. “We know it’s had its critics because there are other events this week, and we understand that. But I’ve always had the view tennis needs to do things that attract more audience, and are cool and a bit different.”

The Laver Cup certainly had more global reach this week than low-level ATP Events. Still, we will only…

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