Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will set aside their long rivalry when they play for Europe against the rest of the world in the inaugural Laver Cup tournament.
Team Europe, featuring the world’s top two players, are overwhelming favourites to win the three-day tournament, which is named after Australian great Rod Laver, with a squad boasting a combined 36 grand slam titles against none for Team World.
The teams are captained by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, whose own rivalry starting in the 1970s featured a contrast in temperament and style that made their matches the kind of must-watch events that Laver Cup organisers hope to showcase.
“I’ve been watching these guys play for so many years, it’s going to be a fun weekend,” Borg, now 61, said on Wednesday. “But make no mistake, we are here to win.”
Conceived by Federer and his sports management company Team8, the tournament is the latest to join a crowded calendar and comes on the heels of the Davis Cup semi-finals last week.
World No.2 Federer played down the impact of another event, saying matches over a short period were manageable and gave players on the two teams the chance to build camaraderie.
“I don’t think it’s too much otherwise all the players wouldn’t be here,” the Swiss great told a news conference.
“The best in the world are very picky in what (tournaments) they play, which (is why it) is great they made this a priority.”
“(We’re) looking forward to making friendships because we play together and not against each other for a change.”
Team Europe also includes German Alexander Zverev, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Austrian Dominic Thiem and Czech Tomas Berdych.
Team World features Americans Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, John Isner and Frances Tiafoe plus Australia’s Nick Krygios and Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
With five players inside the world’s top 10, the Borg-led European squad is heavily favoured against a world team hit by Argentine Juan Martin del Potro’s late withdrawal due to injury.
“I’m expecting a lot of fun but at the same time I know it’s going to be very competitive,” the 22-year-old said. “We are the underdogs.”