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ROD LAVER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 19, 2018
MIKE TIRICO: Hello, everyone. We say good afternoon and welcome to this terrific event here in Chicago. My name is Mike Tirico, and we are thrilled to have the official welcome for the Laver Cup to Chicago, the second playing of this spectacular tennis event that brings great individual sport to the team competition level with one team representing Europe and one team representing the rest of the World, and obviously the U.S. being on the World side of the equation.
It will be September 21st through the 23rd here in Chicago at the United Center and bring big‑time tennis to the city of Chicago for the first time in a quarter of a century and to a level that if you saw any of the excitement last year of the inaugural Laver Cup, this is an event that has a different and a unique and special gear.
For those who were not following when the event was played last September in Prague, Czech Republic, here is a great opportunity to see not just the competition and the very familiar faces and some of the best players in the world, but also the passion of the players in an individual sport playing in a team event.
Let's give you a look at what happened in the first Laver Cup by this brief video on the screen.
(Video of 2017 Laver Cup.)
MIKE TIRICO: I think you see firsthand, if you were not watching the event last year, there was true passion and the joy of having teammates for these players. And for everyone who is local here, if you just think back to six years ago and the Ryder Cup when it was held at Medinah, I had the pleasure of being part of that broadcast, the passion of the players, that's something you see in an event like that, but that's taken years to build up. This was the inaugural Laver Cup, and you saw that it mattered to the players, you saw passion and emotion, and that's why I think this will be such a great event. On top of that, the special sports city that Chicago is, especially that time of year when everything in Chicago is going, Here's one more thing to add to the incredible buffet of sporting options for fans in this great city.
It will be September 21st through the 23rd, Friday through Sunday. You'll see all the details in the press releases. There will be more of that specific information to come. But needless to say, as each day's point values increase with the matches, the tension builds. For everyone who is thinking about buying tickets, it's a good warning six months out to get tickets early, because the tickets went very quickly for Prague last year, and certainly, given the fact that Chicago hasn't seen a tennis event like this in quite some time, as somebody who lives on the other side of the lake in Michigan, I know a lot of our friends are excited to come over, so tickets are going to go quick. So you may want to make sure everyone knows that the time to act will be this week with tickets going on sale Friday, and for Chase card holders, it starts even earlier on Tuesday and Wednesday.
You have heard enough from me and seen enough about last year. Let's meet some of the great legends who are here to help share the excitement of the second Laver Cup.
Why not start with the namesake of the event? If you had a question of anyone, who is the best tennis player of the 20th Century, the answer would probably be the next gentleman. For all of his Grand Slam titles, 11, for winning the calendar year Grand Slam twice, for what he meant to the sport and what he still means to the sport even today, the Aussie has spread this sport around the world, and when you say his name, people immediately associate it with class and greatness.
Please welcome Mr.Rod Laver.
MIKE TIRICO: Rocket, you're welcome to get the middle seat, with good reason.
I have to put somebody next to you, and you may not like me for this. I'm going to put John McEnroe next to you. Seven‑time winner of the premier events‑‑
ROD LAVER: We're all friends.
MIKE TIRICO: Yeah, we all are, right? Wimbledon, US Open, part of his seven Grand Slam titles. You think of tennis in the U.S., team competition, passion for the game, you think of one guy, you think of Johnny Mack. One of his last great moments competing on the tennis court was right here in Chicago. No one happier to be back in this city and be a part.
One of the captains, the captain of Team World for the second straight year in the Laver Cup, please welcome John McEnroe.
JOHN McENROE: Thank you for that fine introduction.
MIKE TIRICO: Nice to see you again. I don't work with you as often, so I have to be nicer than I would be otherwise. It's a challenge.
One of the things with this event is it bridges so many generations of tennis, and you have past greats, present greats, and a present/future great in our next guest, 22 years old from Australia, top 20 in the world. If you've seen that next generation of tennis players who bring it with passion, with heat, with excitement, and a guy you want to get behind and root for, there are very few names you put on this list before this one.
Please welcome Nick Kyrgios.
MIKE TIRICO: Hello, sir. A seat for you at the end there, and I've got a pretty good person to put next to you. A 20‑time winner of tennis's biggest events, Grand Slam events, came off winning the Australian Open yet again this year, his run at Wimbledon, eight Wimbledon titles, five US Opens he won, add the French Open, has won the career Grand Slam. It's not bad to be No. 1 in the world at some point in your life, but how about being No. 1 in the world 14 years apart? All part of the résumé. And when you get to the personal part, he's one of the great individuals who has ever graced any sport, truly one of the best of all time.
Please welcome Mr. Roger Federer.
MIKE TIRICO: Hello, sir. Good to see you. Over there by Nick.
As we mentioned, this is such a great event for the city of Chicago bringing not just big‑time tennis but one of the premier sporting events of the world back to this city, and with that, it's a great honor to welcome the mayor of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
MIKE TIRICO: Chair for you there, sir.
I will start the proceedings with the mayor. It's always good, when you're a visitor in town, to catch up with the mayor first, right?
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: At least in this city.
MIKE TIRICO: That's true.
This city is sports, and we know this city is a great international city, and what an intersection of those two things to have this event in Chicago.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: You're in a city with dedicated fans and with teams that create dynasties. So this is a perfect place to have this event.
I do want to thank not only the players but also the Cup for including kids from all parts of the city as ball kids. XS Tennis, which is on the south side of the city of Chicago, we just opened up, it's in Washington Park with Kamau Murray, and the kids that will be the ball kids for the event come from XS Tennis, the facility. I want to thank you for including all parts of the city in a world‑class event where the world will come to Chicago, your inaugural event in the United States.
Making sure that kids who aspire one day to play on that court get a chance to see the players up close and participate, and I think it speaks volumes to the values of the Cup, that you want to make sure it's an inclusive event that brings everybody from all parts of every neighborhood, and we are a city of neighborhoods.
So thank you, guys, for making that a great way to bring this event to the city of Chicago and to the United States of America.
MIKE TIRICO: It will be fabulous, certainly, to be here in Chicago, a great time of year, right after summer ends and get everyone...
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: We take summer all the way to December.
MIKE TIRICO: Yes, we do. You're darn right about that. No summer event like a Friday in Chicago, right? This event will get started on a Friday, September 21.
Johnny Mack, I will start with you. I always like to give the microphone to you first. Just makes it easier the rest of the way. You have played in this city, were part of the Laver Cup last year as team captain. Björn Borg, by the way, captain for Team Europe; John for Team World. So there is a rivalry continued there.
Tell me what the fans of Chicago will experience September 21 through 23 at the United Center.
JOHN McENROE: Well, I feel that in the course of the last 20 years that tennis has looked for ways to innovate and do things differently and have had some success, but I believe this particular event has been the most unique and different and most successful event we have had to try to bring something new to the calendar, to try to do something that all the top players can rally around and do it something in a period of time that would be advantageous for most if not all the players in terms of scheduling.
So what you have is I believe that the powers that be to include my idol, Rod Laver in this, was, for me, is what I like to see is the sport trying to successfully use these great superstars and icons and people that deserve to be around this sport and that the younger players can sort of feed off of.
And I think we have done, the people involved in this event, have done a great job of ‑‑and Roger, he'll talk about it in a second, but he's got to be given a ton of credit, because he was the one that really started this, that he wanted to do something for Rod.
It's gone to I think beyond even what everyone hoped could happen. You know, the idea of sort of a Ryder Cup, for lack of a better comparison with golf, that's been extremely successful.
It's not often that you can see all the top players rallying around each other and providing the type of energy that we saw in Prague last year.
So Mayor Emanuel has promised all of us‑‑ and having been in Chicago many times, had a lot of friends, played an event here you mentioned, last event I ever won was here‑‑
MIKE TIRICO: Who did you beat?
JOHN McENROE: I happened to beat my brother (laughter).
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: Who is not over it yet. (Laughter.)
JOHN McENROE: The good news is I think this is a tremendous spot for this second event, tremendous city for this event. It's going to be a tall order to top what we did last year, but I think we can do it.
MIKE TIRICO: Give Chicago a challenge and it will knock it out of the park.
Roger, this has been an incredible next chapter in your career, winning three of the last five slams, getting back to No. 1 in the world. This is also part of it, too, the legacy of this Laver Cup.
Can you talk about after last year having such a great season for you, being involved as we saw in that video and the emotion of that inaugural Laver Cup? What was it like?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, besides having had the great season that I had, we also had the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague, which I thought was incredibly successful, highly emotional for both of us, for both teams. It totally surpassed my expectations.
The idea of the Laver Cup was always to honor the legend of the game, starting with Rod Laver who we admire so much. John, myself, and everybody looks up to Rod and everything that him and his generation has done for us.
I think it also brings the tennis world together, all the different generations of players, you know, puts John and Björn back together for a week, and we invite other legends to come follow tennis, as well.
Then you have the new generation coming up and the ones that have already been around for a while, like myself and Rafa, for instance.
I had a blast of a week. We had a great, great time. Obviously now that we are sitting here in Chicago now, being in Chicago for the first time, wonderful city, by the way, I can't wait for September to come around and really kick off the second edition of the Laver Cup.
MIKE TIRICO: Did I hear correct? This is your first time in Chicago?
ROGER FEDERER: First few hours.
MIKE TIRICO: What's the first food you've eaten in Chicago?
ROGER FEDERER: What do you think?
MIKE TIRICO: Deep‑dish pizza?
ROGER FEDERER: Of course I did. We all did. We're ready to go. That's why we're in such a good mood.
MIKE TIRICO: I love Roger Federer.
Here's the great thing. In sport you look for any advantage. You try to find how do you get the home team's side working for you?
Here's Nick, an Aussie, but he'll be on Team World, which is represented by the US. So how do you curry favor with Chicago fans? When the dress is business casual, you show up in red with No. 23 in the Jordan red. So Nick is way ahead of the deal here, working fans six months in advance.
MIKE TIRICO: Nick, what was your inclusion, to be around the three gentlemen up here, the tennis greats, and the 38 slams that these guys represent, what was that like for you to be right in the middle of this competition last year?
NICK KYRGIOS: It was amazing for me. To be a part of that, something special for me was probably the funnest week of my career so far, better than the Grand Slams. To be around my friends, obviously very good friends with all the guys on Team World, there was a bit of an age difference. We had John Isner to Denis Shapovalov, which is one of the youngest guys coming through.
To look on the other side of the net when I was playing Roger and seeing Rafa giving him tactics, I didn't really think it was fair at all (laughter). I'm trying to work it out with Johnny Mack, and we're seeing Rafa whispering into Roger's ear. It was amazing.
It was unbelievably competitive, and I thought Roger set the tone early, coming out, we all knew it was business, we all wanted to win. I'm definitely looking forward to it again and to be a part of it.
Obviously I'm good friends from Rocket. We are from Down Under. Just to see him have an event for him, it's pretty special, as well.
MIKE TIRICO: John, as captain of the World Team, you're announcing today that Nick will be part of this team.
JOHN McENROE: I'm absolutely announcing that Nick will be part of this team. I believe that he will be in on his merits, anyway. The top four, based on their rankings, the other two are selected by the captains, Björn and myself.
In the off‑chance, in the very minimal chance that Nick isn't one of the first four, World Team, he certainly would be part of the team either way, because he's a hell of a team player, and he brought the level of all the players up. He played with the type of energy that I was hoping and praying that he would play.
We almost pulled it off.
NICK KYRGIOS: Almost.
JOHN McENROE: We almost pulled it off.
MIKE TIRICO: I have saved the legend for last on purpose.
Rod, what has this meant to you to have this type of an event named after you and then to watch it for that first year and how it played out?
ROD LAVER: No, it's just been amazing. I thank Rahm Emanuel for having us here in Chicago. The Laver Cup last year was such a success. And, you know, I thank, you know, Roger and all the players that competed.
It was just unbelievable, the energy on the court and with 14,000 people cheering. I know the third day, I think they all realized that, Oh, it's Europe, isn't it? We are on Europe's side? So the cheering went over to Europe.
But it was, you know, a thrill to be, you know, involved. I thank Roger and his company for, you know, concocting and making the Laver Cup a success.
I think along with the success when you've got Borg and Mr.McEnroe here, that, you know, to have them on the line, you know, and helping, you know, get his man past the finishing post, it was a thrill to see it all, and it was exciting.
Yeah, we thank all the players for the effort they put in.
MIKE TIRICO: I can tell you, and Mayor Emanuel can back me up, he's here more than I am, but the city of Chicago will make 14,000 in Prague sound very quiet. If Chicago gets behind the best, especially in the United Center‑‑
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: That's right.
MIKE TIRICO: ‑‑ that place can rock like few other venues.
ROD LAVER: I went to the Blackhawk game last night, and it was crazy (laughter).
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: You'll feel everybody there individually.
MIKE TIRICO: We should bring the Rocket back for a Stanley Cup playoff game, really, through the National Anthem, start to finish, they are incredible fans.
As I mentioned, the event is September 21 through 23 at the United Center. I want to point out Steve Zacks is up here in the front. Steve will be available to any of you in the media to answer any questions related to the event or ticketing questions that we have briefly referred to. Steve will be available when we get done with this portion of the press conference.
We will turn it over for a couple of questions in a moment. Before that, Roger, it was referred to a few times here, the legend of Rod Laver and the accomplishments of Björn Borg, the captain from the European side, and for John McEnroe, Team World, what was that like for you, someone who has accomplished so many incredible things in the sport, to bring all of these people into one place, especially honoring the legend that is Rod Laver?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, incredibly special. I am a big historian of the game. I love history. I like looking back on what the players did, how they did it and why they did it, what drove them.
They have paved the way for us, I have said it so many times, I think it's so important to show respect to what they have done, because today we play in these big arenas in front of so many people. We've become professional tennis players because the game evolved and players took chances and they moved the game forward, and here we are today at the Laver Cup, and we were able to get all together for a good cause and celebrate tennis, if you like.
I think John enjoyed it, Rod enjoyed it, Borg, all the players. That was my dream‑case scenario that everybody would leave the Laver Cup and say, What a week it's been, I wish it was the Laver Cup every single week, what Nick said.
So we were able to achieve that, so we can be very proud. It's only the very beginning, so hopefully this event will be around for a very, very long time to come.
MIKE TIRICO: So fortunate for us in the Midwest, it will alternate between Europe and the rest of the world, and the first time that it's not in Europe, any other city in the world, but it's here in the Midwest, not just here but here in the great city of Chicago.
We were out at the Bean before and able to get some great pictures of these guys at one of the iconic, beautiful architectural spots of the city, and you will see a lot of that as we build towards September.
Questions from the media?
Q. Obviously for the better part of the last decade, European men have dominated the big events, the Grand Slams, Masters events, but the last couple of Masters 1000s have been won by non‑American [sic] men. Do you get a sense the tide is finally turning after such a period of European dominance, or has it just been sort of a blip the last few events?
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: Let me take that. (laughter.)
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, possibly. It could be a bit of a change, but at the same time, we have seen some injuries, as well, with Wawrinka and Djokovic and Murray, you know, and others, too. Nishikori and Raonic would be on Team World side. A lot of them were missing. But I just think Jack played unbelievable in Paris last year and now Delpo played incredible yesterday and for the whole week.
It always has been possible. I just think, for whatever reason it was, it just didn't happen. You know, there is a lot of potential on, you know, away from Europe, we have always known that. But it's true Europe has been on an absolute tear the last 10 years or so. It's been pretty incredible.
I wonder if it's us being brought up on the clay or not, because I think that's a good base to start off with, I'm not sure about that, but I wouldn't be surprised if it changes a little bit. I would be surprised if it changes completely right away, because Team Europe is just so, so strong.
But anything is possible. And then when someone like Nick starts maybe dominating or others start doing the same, in tennis you can start racking up a lot of titles, two, three slams a year, or you can win four, five Masters 1000s. We have seen Novak do it, Rafa do it, myself do it.
I think it would be nice if someone away from Europe could start having an impact like that.
JOHN McENROE: Believe it or not, back when I played, you wanted to play a guy from Switzerland.
ROGER FEDERER: There you go.
ROD LAVER: I think all the Australians are banking on Nick to come through. He has the talent and the effort. He needs to get a little more experience, but, you know, Australia had a huge amount of great young players, and so now it's Nick's turn to take over.
Q. My question is to Roger and to you, Mayor. How much time does it take for you to negotiate and bringing the Cup to Chicago? A short process, long process? How happy, were you, Mayor, to get it here?
ROGER FEDERER: You go ahead. I didn't do any negotiations.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: I made a number of phone calls at key times throughout the process, and the person I just mentioned, Kamau Murray, who runs XS Tennis, and our sports association at World Business Chicago, we made a series of phone calls at key moments during the process. And I want to be honest, I said then and I will say, It's one thing to have your inaugural event, and that set a real high standard, you want to make sure if you're going to create an institution that's a tournament that constantly goes, you want to make sure the next city can meet and exceed that.
I said what better city than a city that embraces sports of all types, is a world‑class city, to bring it to Chicago? I told them then, I said to the organizer, I said, You have one issue. This is the only phone number you've got to call.
We did it for the NFL draft, we did it for obviously the All‑Star Basketball, we have done it for NHL draft, we hold major, major sporting events here, and your second act has to be as good as your first act.
I hit play and made that call and never 20 seconds. (Laughter.)
We made a series of phone calls and organized it. I don't want to speak for anybody, but for the tournament, I think they realize if you're hungry, I said, We're going to prove ourselves and we have a lot to prove.
Prague set a standard, but I don't doubt that when they leave they'll say, We should have done the first time in Chicago. That was my commitment to them and that's what we are going to do.
ROGER FEDERER: Steve Zacks told me that Chicago was extremely excited to get the Laver Cup to come here. When I found out it was Chicago at the end, I was very happy. Like with Nick, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, that was a big deal for me. I've never been to Chicago before, and I wanted always to experience the city here and play tennis once before I retire, so all stars aligned. Here we are. Thank you very much.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: We made a commitment. To help the World Team, we are going to send them a pizza once a week.
ROGER FEDERER: Everywhere we go? (Laughter.)
Q.In Chicago we like our football and baseball players to be blue‑collar types, hard‑working, down and dirty. If there is one matchup that Chicago fans should look forward to here in Chicago either in doubles or singles that you could kind of tease right now, who should the fans be most excited about in terms of a matchup?
ROD LAVER: Well, we don't know who the teams are going to be yet, because the ATP computer system picks the top four players from each team, and then John and Björn get two captains' picks. You know, I would have to think there is going to be some close matches but we don't know those players yet.
JOHN McENROE: I think you're looking at the two you may want to see in September, because they had a heck of a match that was extremely exciting, and in a fitting way ‑‑well, somewhat fitting way to end it, depending on which side you were looking at, but nonetheless ‑‑
ROGER FEDERER: Very fitting (laughter).
JOHN McENROE: If we could have that type of matchup again, it would be amazing, in my book.
ROGER FEDERER: Also having Del Potro there maybe, Djokovic would be nice, Rafa, of course, again. Have to see how the rankings evolve.
Q. Mr.Federer, how does it feel to be back on top? Do you think your recent success is going to be something that really drives folks to look at the Cup here?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I hope so. Look, whatever helps is great. You know, honestly I can't tell you how happy I am to be world No. 1 again. I never thought it was going to happen ever again, you know, I had my moment.
So, I mean, I worked hard. I got lucky I guess in the process through surgery, through rehab, and all these moments. Maybe I believed as well to some extent I could go far again.
But I exceeded my expectations, and that is a huge buzz around me being world No. 1. If I can bring that buzz here to Chicago and sell extra tickets, that would be a wonderful thing, because all we want is a great crowd here that supports Team World, Team Europe, and we're going to see a great clash.
I hope to be in great shape when the Laver Cup comes around so I can give my very best and really show Chicago how good I can actually play tennis live.
MIKE TIRICO: With a couple of stops between now and then, we look forward to watching all that.
For the assembled members of the media, print and electronic, I think there will be details here how we split apart. Needless to say, thank you for coming out. I know you will be passing along the word that six months away there is some pretty good planning for middle weekend in September for the Laver Cup, September 21 through 23, at the United Center.
We thank Nick Kyrgios, Roger Federer, Rod Laver, John McEnroe, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for their time, and thank you for being here, as well.
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