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LAVER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 23, 2017
Prague, Czech Republic
NICK McCARVEL: Well, good morning, everyone. Welcome here today at the headquarters of our global sponsor of the Laver Cup, JPMorgan Chase.
My name is Nick McCarvel, and I'm delighted and honored to be your host here today to help reveal some exciting news about the Laver Cup, which, if my calendar math is right, is exactly a month from today, September 22nd to 24th.
Now, if you don't know, the Laver Cup was created to honor the man to only win two calendar Grand Slams in his career. One of the greatest players to ever pick up a stick, Mr. Rod Laver.
Held September 22nd to 24th at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, it will feature three days of play pitting the best six players in Europe against their counterparts from the rest of the world.
The great rivalry of BjÃ¶rn Borg and John McEnroe will also be reborn in the Laver Cup, as the two men are acting as captains for the two teams in the first three iterations of the event. The Laver Cup, I'm also happy to say, will be right here in the United States of America, a year from now, in 2018, at a to-be-determined location.
Now, before we get into our program, I want to extend the thanks of the Laver Cup to the founding sponsor, Rolex, as well as global sponsor and our host today, JPMorgan Chase, as well as Mercedes-Benz. We'd also like to welcome the chairman, CEO, and president of the board of the USTA. Katrina Adams is here today. Obviously it's fan week for the US Open, and we wish Katrina and everyone at the US Open a great two weeks. I'm hoping just for a little bit of rain, Katrina, so we can see that roof. I want to see that roof in action.
All right. At this time, I want you all to turn your attention to these two screens on the side of the room to see what we're going to see next month, Tennis Unrivaled.
ROGER FEDERER: To be on the same side of the net as Rafa, finally, is going to be absolutely unbelievable.
BJÃ–RN BORG: Being a captain on the European team, we have so many great players in Europe, and I think this is the first time that everybody can get together on the European team.
JOHN McENROE: No question about it. That's why I think this is going to be a lot more competitive than it may appear at the moment.
(End of video.)
NICK McCARVEL: Well, I have to say that I get chills when I see that illustration of Rod Laver and Roger Federer shaking hands at the net at Wimbledon.
Before we bring one of those legends to the stage, let's welcome the other. He's an 11-time major champion, having won the calendar Grand Slam in two different years. One of the absolute legends of the game and a man for which this very competition is named. He's going to walk from the back of the room.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the great, the one and only, Rod Laver.
NICK McCARVEL: Welcome.
Rod, you've got a stadium in Melbourne at the Australian Open, Rod Laver Arena, but now you have one-upped yourself with an event named after you. How does that feel and add to your legacy?
ROD LAVER: Well, it's amazing when I look at my whole career. But I'm totally honored to have this particular event named after myself. I thank a lot of people, but I thank Team8 and Roger Federer felt the amateur world before open tennis, and it was something that -- he felt, Roger felt, that this was something that was important, that there was a lot of past champions before open tennis, and I think that is where I come into play. I'm the throw-back to the past champions.
It's a huge honor to be able to have this event being part of today's world. I look back at the -- you know, when you watch these matches, you've got three days of the 12 best players in the world competing on an abbreviated schedule of matches.
When you're looking at the matches themselves, you know, it's going to be a shortened version. If it's a set all, then the third set will be a tiebreaker.
So that's the different format that I think they are coming up with. To me, that's a good idea. Gives you a whole lot of variety.
NICK McCARVEL: Well, we want to again welcome Rod Laver. How about a round of applause for this great tennis legend. Thank you so much for being with us today.
NICK McCARVEL: At this time it's my great pleasure to welcome another legend who has tennis fans around the world trying to figure out exactly what year it is. He won his 18th and 19th majors respectively this year at the Australian Open and at Wimbledon and will compete at the US Open the next few weeks to try to get back to world No. 1 for the first time since 2012, adding to his 302 weeks already at the top spot.
New York City, please give a warm welcome to Roger Federer.
NICK McCARVEL: Roger, I'm curious if you're wondering what year it is, too, because you have thrown all of us back 10, 12 years with your tennis this season.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it's been an absolutely magical year. Couldn't be happier after a tough one last year. I was only in the city here briefly a couple of days last year for some events, but there's no chance I could have played here.
One year later, you fast forward, and fighting for world No. 1, being back at the US Open, having won Wimbledon, Indian Wells, Miami, Australia, and other tournaments, it's been great. To be back in the city feels great, and I couldn't be happier.
NICK McCARVEL: I want you to talk a little bit and explain to this room, because not everyone will know sort of the idea of the Laver Cup, the man sitting next to you, and how you wanted to honor his legacy, where did that actually come from?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I feel the likes of Rod Laver and other legends of the game have marked our sport in such a big way and it should never be forgotten. Rocket himself has been really one of the biggest personalities we have had in our sport.
I've gotten to know Rod over the years. He's a lovely man and he's been incredibly supportive of our generation of players, too. He always comes and watches us play. That's when the idea came about to sort of pay tribute to the likes of Rod Laver and then also the present and also the future coming through. I think getting all the generations together I think is a wonderful thing.
And playing in honor of the great Rod Laver at the Laver Cup now is only 30 days away, basically. It's really exciting, because I have been talking about this event with Tony and my team and my friends for almost three years now.
It's upon us now, and it's incredibly exciting, announcing the teams here and seeing who the captains are and BjÃ¶rn Borg and John McEnroe. You can imagine, it's like a fairy tale to see it all come together.
NICK McCARVEL: Just this morning the clock ticked less than 30 days. Now we will fill out the teams today in full, but for you, you said in the video that we previewed there that it would be unbelievable for you to get to be on the same team as long-time rival Rafael Nadal. That will be a different feeling to have him on your side of the net and that forehand.
ROGER FEDERER: It's a good feeling, yes. Finally, after all these years, I get a chance to actually support his forehand, his aggressive play, his everything, his fighting spirit. Everything before was always like, ahh, another forehand and another fighter.
No, I know Rafa so well, and he's been a wonderful champion for our sport. So for us to spend sort of a week together on the same team and, you know, exchanging, you know, ideas of how we could win the Laver Cup over the weekend, I think it's going to be really highly entertaining for both of us.
NICK McCARVEL: We will bring a few more people up onstage. This is a vision that's incredible in tennis right now. Another round of applause for Rod Laver and for Roger Federer.
NICK McCARVEL: Thank you, Roger.
At this time, I'm going to welcome up a couple more members from Team Europe. First, 2014 US Open champion, 2017 runner-up at Wimbledon, current world No. 7, and he has seven ATP titles to his name. He's walking alongside the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up, who has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world with 13 career singles titles to his name, and he was just a semifinalist at the All England Club.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych.
NICK McCARVEL: Now, we've got Tomas, Marin, and Roger onstage. This is half of Team Europe. We already mentioned Rafael Nadal, and they will be joined by world No. 8, Dominic Thiem. We have announcement to make, as well. We have one more member for Team Europe. We're going to hold off on that for the suspension in just a second.
I want to start with you, Tomas. You, in February, went with Roger to Prague, to your home country to Czech Republic. I want to know your impressions of that trip. There were a few people there that came out to see you guys in Prague, and also, the excitement around you for playing at home in the Czech Republic.
TOMAS BERDYCH: Absolutely. I think it was a great day. I think everything went pretty well. You know, we played a bit of tennis on the boat, you know, going under the famous Charles Bridge, you know, see a lot of people. I think it was really, really great.
And then, you know, meet up on the big square with really a lot of people. I think it was a great start-up for this huge event.
You know, for me, it's an honor. It's a start-up, will be first time in Prague, Czech Republic. It's going to be a big moment for all of the Czech tennis fans and all the world that's gonna see this unique event.
NICK McCARVEL: And Marin, for you, you have Tomas and Roger playing for Captain Borg, with Rafa, Dominic, that's a not-too-shabby team for Team Europe.
MARIN CILIC: Definitely. It's a huge pleasure to be alongside Roger, Tomas, Dominic, and Captain Borg. It's going to be definitely a lot of fun, and it's also, to represent Europe in this kind of event, I think it's going to be amazing for us players to do something like that, but also for the fans to experience it. I think it's going to be just a unique experience.
NICK McCARVEL: You guys are going to be a tough team to beat, Team Europe.
Now, before we get to Team World, Roger, if you're okay, do you want to break some news for Team Europe?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah. The last member of Team Europe is going to be picked by BjÃ¶rn Borg as a captain's pick is going to be Alexander Zverev, which we are very excited about, because he's had a wonderful year. It's great news. We were very excited when we heard it.
NICK McCARVEL: If you haven't heard of Alexander Sascha Zverev yet, he's one of the rising stars on the ATP. He's won two Masters 1000s this year, one of the favorites for the US Open.
That completes Team Europe. Not a bad pick there.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I think it's a great pick. I'm happy he made himself available. He's had a wonderful year. I think we share the opinion, I think he's going to be one of the great players for the next ten years in our game, a great sport, and I'm sure he's going to be a great team player, as well. Of course we're very, very happy to have him on the team.
NICK McCARVEL: All right. Thank you, Team Europe. Thank you for all being here, of course.
I want to now bring up another legend of the game. Set to serve as captain for Team World, a seven-time singles Grand Slam winner, a former world No. 1, Davis Cup champion, and a lifetime New Yorker, please welcome John McEnroe.
JOHN McENROE: Thank you.
NICK McCARVEL: John, you have done Davis Cup, you've done a lot of team events in your career, different iterations, but for you, what's exciting about and makes Laver Cup different?
JOHN McENROE: This man right here. This was my idol growing up. We are looking to do something big here along the lines of the Ryder Cup in golf, and I think this is a magnificent way to try to get this going. It couldn't be a better man to represent what we are trying to do here.
So I'm excited and very happy that I was asked to captain this team for the next three years, the first one being in Prague and then hopefully in New York next year, perhaps, but we'll see.
It's going to be awesome. I think this event is going to grow and grow.
NICK McCARVEL: I could be wrong here, but I think you were 7 and 7 against BjÃ¶rn Borg in your career, so maybe this is the ultimate tiebreak, Laver Cup?
JOHN McENROE: That's what I was thinking, although these guys have a lot of good players, these Europeans. Maybe we could just sort of play that by ear a little?
ROGER FEDERER: Year by year.
NICK McCARVEL: You're not going to put yourself in, are you?
JOHN McENROE: I think that if the rest of the world wants any chance of winning, I will not be playing. (Laughter.)
NICK McCARVEL: So speaking of Team World, for John's team, you've got Americans John Isner, Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, and Milos Raonic. But in that intro video, you said there is rising talent on your squad that you're hoping can compete with the Europeans.
Do you want to announce your last couple of captain's picks?
JOHN McENROE: Absolutely. I think this young man is going to be a great, great player in the future. He's a Canadian, but we won't hold that against him.
He's also a left-hander, like Mr. Rod Laver and myself. So I'm excited to announce Denis Shapovalov as one of my captain's picks.
NICK McCARVEL: Come on up, Denis.
NICK McCARVEL: So as he makes his way to the stage, I want to say that he's made essentially a lifetime and probably the best run of his career so far, semifinals in Montreal, beating Rafael Nadal, beating Juan Martin Del Potro, and is this your first meeting with Johnny Mack?
DENIS SHAPOVALOV: Yeah, the first time I've met him. It's a little nerve-wracking to be sitting with all these great athletes, a little bit nervous, but yeah, it's a fun time for me.
NICK McCARVEL: You and I can be the outsiders in this group, Denis.
John, you've got one more captain's pick to announce?
JOHN McENROE: One more pick. He's a tremendous young man, a little bit older and a veteran and a winner. Happy to see him back in some great form. The Argentine, Juan Martin Del Potro will be on our squad.
JOHN McENROE: Yes.
NICK McCARVEL: Again, Team World, you've got Isner, Sock, Querrey, Raonic, Mr. Shapovalov. We will all learn how to say that in tennis in the next few years. Is that right?
DENIS SHAPOVALOV: Pretty close.
NICK McCARVEL: I've got some work to do. And of course Juan Martin Del Potro. That's a great way to set the scene.
You guys ready up here, Team Europe?
ROGER FEDERER: We are. We feel strong.
NICK McCARVEL: Denis, before we move on, I want to ask you about that run in Montreal, making semifinal of a Masters 1000, and then also your excitement around playing at Laver Cup next month.
DENIS SHAPOVALOV: Yeah, Montreal was unbelievable for me, and actually, funny story, before the event, my mom had a feeling, for some reason, and she told me, You know, for some reason I feel like you're going to play Roger this week.
I was, like, Look, the draw came out, I have to play them in the finals. It's a long way to go. I don't think I'm going to get there.
After I lost to Zverev, she was, like, Damn it. You were so close. My feeling was so good.
Yeah, it was an incredible run. It was amazing to, you know, not just to be on the court with guys like Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal, but, you know, to be beating these guys. It's very motivating for me and is very inspiring.
NICK McCARVEL: This is actually Denis's day off. He won his qualifying match yesterday at the US Open, so we're making you work on your day off.
DENIS SHAPOVALOV: Yeah, pretty much. No, it's honestly a pleasure to be here, like I said, with such a great group of guys.
Yeah, it's truly an honor to be sitting with past champions and present champions like yourselves, and, you know, I'm very happy to be here with all you guys.
NICK McCARVEL: Thank you to Denis. And we're going to do a quick panel discussion up here and then open it up to questions from the journalists here.
Roger, I want to ask you first, we got our full teams, have all the 12 guys. As far as matchups go, what are you looking forward to most?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, we don't exactly know who's going to play yet, you know. Especially the doubles teams, you know, those are going to be crucial down the stretch, I'm sure, as well.
I just hope we get great camaraderie going throughout the week, when we get to Prague, all together, with BjÃ¶rn going to be there and prepping us for the matches, I'm excited to hear what he has to say.
We know they've got a lot of talent and a lot of big serves coming our way. We have to be ready from the beginning. It's not like one of those tournaments where you can play yourself into shape and then play your best, you know, sort of down the stretch at a tournament. It's go time from the very beginning, and I think that's going to be the pressure and the toughness of the Laver Cup, really.
But, you know, I'm pumped, as ever, to get this underway. I'll give it all I have. I hope that my team can follow me and support us, you know, to get the win.
NICK McCARVEL: Rod, I'm curious, with your Australian heritage, you're technically Team World -- we're not going to pick sides -- but what advice would be give to Johnny Mack? He has an uphill battle here to fight, I think.
ROD LAVER: I totally agree. When I look at the Europeans and the strength they have and the experience that's on their side, you know, I think we're, in a way, a young team, Denis certainly is young, but yeah, I think John's capable of getting this team together and bringing off a win for the rest of the world.
JOHN McENROE: I'm not going there to lose.
ROD LAVER: Thank you.
NICK McCARVEL: For you, John, the O2 Arena in Prague is an indoor facility, obviously, and John, I'm guessing the court is going to play rather fast. When I look at the lineups, you have big Johnny Isner, a lot of big servers on your squad there to help you with that.
JOHN McENROE: Well, obviously when you've got players, you mentioned Isner, that can take the racquet out of your hand, that makes it a little bit more nerve-wracking for their opponents. Originally I was only going to pick guys 6'6" and above. (Laughter.) But I have decided that, you know, Denis is doing so well, he's a mere 6'1" or so, that we can work our way with some smaller guys.
But we've got some really big, dangerous hitters. It will be interesting to see the speed of the court, because the speed of the court will be an issue.
I suspect if the Europeans know what they're doing, they might try to slow it down a little bit. (Laughter.)
NICK McCARVEL: Well, we will see. Do we have microphones out for the journalists? Do you have questions here?
Q. This is a question for John and for Roger. You've watched the tape of the great Rod Laver. If you could get into a time capsule and go back and play him in his prime, what would you do to try to beat Rod Laver?
JOHN McENROE: I don't have any chance, so...
ROGER FEDERER: I'm not sure if staying at the baseline would be the right place, so I would have to actually adjust my play, quite honestly, and have to come in and be maybe a little bit out of my comfort zone, serve and volleying first, second serve. That's where Rocket would be better because that's how he played.
We would probably be playing on grass, which is good for me, but the grass back then was different. So the baseline on the grass courts then wouldn't have been easy.
Yeah, it would have been very difficult, because, as we all know, Rod was one of the greatest volleyers ever to play the game, and still, when we watch the videos, there is so much to learn from him.
JOHN McENROE: Rod will probably correct me, but as far as I know, he was the first guy that really was capable of hitting any shot anywhere. That was something that I tried to emulate and copy and learn.
I don't know, you know, coming over the backhand from the baseline and doing everything well was something that made it extremely difficult to play against him.
ROD LAVER: I think the thing I learned when I was probably 8 or 10 that my coach said, you know, You lefties, you're never going to be anybody with a slice backhand, so you've got to learn to hit topspin.
So that was probably a stroke of luck that my coach would have said that at that age, because I enjoyed doing it. Yes, I was hitting them in the cheap seats for quite some time, but as I got a little better and a little stronger, you know, it helped.
But I think that variety of play, it certainly did help me with all my career wins. So, you know, seeing John play and seeing the competitor he is, you know, that's what wins the matches. Not just purely his strokes. It's knowing what to do and when to do it.
Q. First of all, congratulations. I know you were instrumental in bringing together the Laver Cup. Before we get there, we have this little two-week tournament going on in New York. I know you had some back concerns but also the fact you're coming in with such an incredibly resurgent year and the results you have had going for three out of four Grand Slam Championships. Talk about the mindset coming in.
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, other than the back issue, you know, I'm coming in as good as I can possibly feel, because I have played extremely well and I have not overplayed. Funny enough, that combination, I don't think I have ever had it to the extent I had it this year. I didn't play all the clay court season. I took 10 weeks off in hope that it would pay off for the grass court season, and it did.
Again, that was good, saving the body and the mind and remaining fresh for hopefully the rest of the season. I just make sure I'm 100% ready when the matches come around here in New York. I'm feeling really excited to be here. I'm back on the practice courts. Feeling much, much better than a week ago. That's very encouraging for me ahead of New York.
I love playing here. The court surface suits me well. I mean, like most guys, too. But I like playing here, as well.
Q. To follow on from that, Roger, I wanted to ask you, particularly, you have had your issues with injury. You pulled out of Cincinnati. Quite a few other players did, as well. Some people might suggest that to have another competition in tennis, is that not pushing players too much? What do you feel about that?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, look, yeah, you could always argue either way. I mean, it is severe at the moment what's going on with injuries, no doubt about it. You know, those injuries are not just like the little niggling injury we've seen for three days here or there, two weeks. We have seen big ones, three months, six months, and multiple players.
But I don't think a weekend of three days in Prague is going to throw everything overboard and make the players totally overplay. That's the system of the Laver Cup is exactly not trying to do that, to make the players go to their absolute limit mentally and physically. It's actually guys coming together, playing for the right reasons, and Rod Laver, and spending a cool week together, and trying our absolute best and just having a good time, really.
So I don't think that's going to be an issue, but the players always have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves the question: What's enough and what's too much? On the practice courts, on the match courts? And what's enough or not too much vacation?
It's a fine balance, really.
Q. Marin, I wonder what your fitness is like? You have had some issues this summer.
MARIN CILIC: Yeah, generally for me during my career I was okay with picking up the schedule and trying to take care of my body in the best way possible, and that's what, all players, we need to do. We are all definitely individuals. We all play our own style of tennis.
Obviously I had now a short period of time without playing and didn't play these two Masters 1000 events. I took time, enough time to prepare, to heal, and to get to 100%, and that's what matters most.
With this kind of event, as well, as Roger said, it's a three-day event. I believe no ad system is being played. The matches are not so grueling. You may not play every single day.
So it just gives you an opportunity, you know, to be in a unique team, be with these great gentlemen and great champions, and obviously to learn from them. With this kind of event, I believe that even the popularity of tennis can grow, and, you know, everybody can have a positive impact on it.
NICK McCARVEL: One final question here.
Q. It's all beautiful to see past, present, and future in this format, but John, how competitive it's going to be? You guys all seem very friendly, but is there a little bit of the component of Davis Cup? What's at stake? What is it about...
JOHN McENROE: Well, again, I would refer to the Ryder Cup, which is a competition similar in what we're trying to do here, which is a three-day event. We bring together the best players in the world. Obviously the best players are in Europe, a lot of them, in tennis. So it's up to us to try to step up.
To me, it's absolutely a competition and something that hopefully -- I mean, listen, anyone that knows me knows that my heart was into Davis Cup for many years. But Davis Cup is not the same as what it was. It's been struggling for a long time.
So this is the type of event, I believe, that's better for all concerned, unfortunately, because it's a one-week event that takes place one week a year. I'm not going to get into the politics of Davis Cup, but this has the potential of being a great event, my opinion.
NICK McCARVEL: I want to thank all of you for joining us up here onstage. Big round of applause for them one more time.
NICK McCARVEL: Again, the Laver Cup is set for September 22nd to 24th in Prague at the O2 Arena.
If you don't mind stepping forward, we will do some shots here for the cameras. All the way to the edge of the stage, I think.
NICK McCARVEL: Denis, I'll let you lead the charge off the stage.
Again, thanks to everyone. John McEnroe, the great Rod Laver, and our Laver Cup participants.
Guys, best of luck next month. Thanks, everyone, for joining us here today at JPMorgan Chase.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports