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LAVER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 21, 2018
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us at the beautiful Madison Avenue location of our global sponsor of the Laver Cup, JPMorgan Chase. I am so glad to be here with you today as we relive the success of the inaugural Laver Cup and look forward to September 21st through the 23rd when a major tennis event is going to be returning to the great city of Chicago for the first time in 25 years.
As of today, we are officially in the one-month countdown. And thanks to the exciting news we're going to be receiving here this morning, I'm sure we'll be leaving here with anticipation levels at an all-time high.
Laver Cup was created, of course, to honor the only man to win two calendar year Grand Slams in his career, one of the greatest players to ever pick up a racquet, Mr. Rod Laver.
Last year's event was held in Prague, Czech Republic, where the world watched as rivals became teammates in a one-of-a-kind tennis atmosphere. Team Europe walked away Laver Cup champions, but there is no doubt that Team World will be ready for a rematch and home-field advantage when those now famous black courts are unveiled at the United Center in Chicago.
Play will take place over the course of three days with six players from Team World, captained by John McEnroe, taking on six players from Team Europe, captained by one of McEnroe's greatest rivals, Bjorn Borg.
Before we get started, I want to extend the thanks of the Laver Cup to the founding sponsor Rolex, global sponsor and our host today, JPMorgan Chase, as well as Mercedes-Benz.
Finally we would like to extend a special welcome to chairman of the board and president of the USTA, Katrina Adams, and executive director and CEO, Gordon Smith. Thanks for being with us this morning.
Now I'd like you to turn our attention toward our video boards and get a little glimpse of what Laver Cup is all about.
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to bring up our first special guest, he's an 11-time major champion, the winner of the calendar Grand Slam in two different years. He's one of the absolute legends of the game, and he's the man for which this competition has been named, all the way from Australia, please welcome Rod Laver.
Welcome, Rod. So good to see you. I'm going to join you for a moment. I have to say, one year ago at this time, Laver Cup was still an idea in our minds. What was it like sitting courtside in Prague watching it all unfold in real-time?
ROD LAVER: It was amazing. I'm still sort of star struck it's called the Laver Cup. Watching that event for three days, it was just magnificent. The way the players played, how they performed, how they enjoyed it. Of course, 17,000 people just admired all the players.
THE MODERATOR: When you see your name, you mentioned headlining such a successful event, what are the emotions? What goes through your mind?
ROD LAVER: I think, yeah, starting off as a kid, you're not thinking anything like this. But I was very fortunate. I played some of my best tennis at the right time in my career. So winning Wimbledon, winning a Grand Slam, it's just purely a dream come true.
THE MODERATOR: Finally, we want to say happy belated birthday. You celebrated the big 8-0. I hope you celebrated in style.
ROD LAVER: I'd like to forget them (laughter).
No, I think I did a lot in these 80 years.
THE MODERATOR: You packed a lot in, for sure.
Let's welcome our next special guest. Set to once again serve as captain for Team World, a former world No. 1, both a singles and doubles Grand Slam champion, Davis Cup champion and lifetime New Yorker, please welcome John McEnroe.
John, welcome. You have one year under your belt now as captain of Team World. Tell us what it was like from a captain's perspective?
JOHN McENROE: I think it was one of the best and most exciting weeks that I've been around for many years. To be with my idol here to my right, to see the players get behind it as much as they did, the crowd was amazing. So we're hoping now that we have the home-court advantage, that in Chicago, which is a great sports town, that we can pull this out.
The players are excited. I'm excited. It was an awesome week. We're looking forward to it being even better this year.
THE MODERATOR: We talked about the idea of rivals becoming teammates. It really looked as if the players had no trouble making that transition. Was that your experience?
JOHN McENROE: Well, we were obviously big underdogs, as we will be this year. However, I felt we had a great team spirit. You'll see the players that are going to be playing for us. I think sometimes it helps bring out human things you didn't know you could accomplish beforehand.
We felt like we were struggling early. The next thing you know, we were so close to winning it. We're hoping to make that next step this year.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned Rod as your idol. I know you looked up to him as a kid. How nice is it to be able to grow his legacy in such an important way?
JOHN McENROE: I think tennis recognizes hopefully, and Roger in particular, to get behind something like this where he's the Babe Ruth of our sport. We're all happy to be part of this. I think it's important for our history that people, the players and fans, are aware of how we got to where we are today.
THE MODERATOR: Absolutely.
I think it's time to welcome our next guest, ranked as high as No. 1 in the world, he's a 13-time Grand Slam champion, a Davis Cup champion, and as of Sunday the only player to ever win all nine ATP Masters 1000 titles, from Serbia and Team Europe, please welcome Novak Djokovic.
Welcome, Novak. So good to have you fresh off your win in Cincinnati. Speaking of one year ago, you weren't even playing tennis one year ago as you were rehabbing your elbow. Today you sit with us as a Wimbledon champion, the winner of the Golden Masters, now we're looking forward to Laver Cup. Can you sum up the last year and tell us what you're most looking forward to.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you. It's a thrill to be here and of course share the stage with legends of our sport, to be announcing the Laver Cup for this year.
I watched Laver Cup from my home last year. I wasn't competing. I had the elbow injury that kept me away from the tour. But Laver Cup looked really, really good on the TV. All the people who were there, participating, were saying only nice things about it.
It's a new concept, a new format, a new competition. It's very refreshing. Resembles Ryder Cup in golf. Carries the name of a living legend. Phenomenal. A great pleasure to be part of it.
THE MODERATOR: In Cincinnati, Roger Federer talked about looking forward to Laver Cup, as well. He said he's looking forward to spending time with you. What has your rivalry with Roger meant to you in your career, 46 matchups now? What is it going to be like to possibly join him maybe on the doubles court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I'm looking forward to that, hopefully if it comes to that. I look forward to spending time with him, with all the other players.
Life on the tour is different. Obviously you have your team, individual sport. Only team competition so far was Davis Cup historically. You share those type of team weeks with only your countrymen. You don't get to mix up too much with your biggest rivals for obvious reasons.
Laver Cup is a competition that unites us all. It was really unusual to see that but also very nice that all the players were there backing and supporting the player who was performing on the court every single day. I thought that was really, really nice.
New friendships were formed, some friendships were made stronger after that competition. So I really look forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: I'm told there's a large Serbian population in Chicago. You have Serbian fans wherever you go. How nice is it to see the flags and fans cheering for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I look forward to that very much. I've been invited to come to Chicago because of the large Serbian community for many years now. It's going to be my first time in Chicago. It's a great occasion, Laver Cup. Plus I'm going to have hopefully a little bit of spare time to go around the city and see many people.
THE MODERATOR: It is time now to talk about our teams. I would love for you to help me do the honors as the lone representative of Team Europe to announce the team.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Okay. Should I stand (laughter)?
THE MODERATOR: Whatever you like.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Ladies and gentlemen, the Team Europe for Laver Cup, in absence of our captain, Mr. Bjorn Borg, I have the honor. I will start with Roger Federer, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Kyle Edmund, David Goffin and myself. There we go.
THE MODERATOR: It is quite the lineup. Coincidentally the first five members of Team Europe are ranked 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. The captain's pick is Kyle Edmund, No. 16 in the world.
John, you've seen Kyle grow over the last few years. He's settling into his role as the British No. 1 very well.
JOHN McENROE: He is. But he's not going to know what pressure is till he gets to the Laver Cup (laughter). He's in for a very rude awakening.
THE MODERATOR: What are your thoughts on the overall strength of this team?
JOHN McENROE: I'm sitting next to two of the all-time greats. Roger is obviously there. This is a tall order. I decided because of the talent that you're seeing with Team Europe that I would get the world's tallest team to try to intimidate our opponents come September.
THE MODERATOR: That is a perfect segue. We'd love for you to do the honors and announce Team World.
JOHN McENROE: I will stand as Novak did.
Team Rest of the World is going to consist of John Isner, a mere 6'10", Kevin Anderson at 6'8", Diego Schwartzman at 5'7", Nick Kyrgios a mere 6'3", Jack Sock who I just added a mere 6'2", and our team leader, who I see in the back over there, a gentleman by the name of Juan Martin del Potro. I'm very happy to be in his presence today.
THE MODERATOR: Juan is joining us now all the way from Argentina.
So great to see you. Juan, you got to watch this event last year. How excited are you to be able to experience it firsthand in September?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Of course, I watch it at home. I was cheering for Team World, for sure. Now we have the chance to play, to enjoy a great week with these gentlemen. We'll try to win, for sure. But it's not going to be easy for us. At least we are the tallest team, and that is good for us (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: You have a mini Team Argentina playing for Team World, you and Diego Schwartzman. Only a foot height difference, but I am sure you are great friends and have competed together many times.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Yes, of course, Diego is a pretty small guy. He's so funny. We would like to play for Team World, to try to win these legends. Also we will have good friends on the team leaded by John, which is an honor for us. For sure we have a good time there.
JOHN McENROE: We have two guys with big hearts. I mean, all of them, but especially Diego Schwartzman. We all have a lot of respect for what he's been able to accomplish. Still I believe he's 12 or 13 in the world as we speak.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Five out of seven biggest servers in the game are right there.
JOHN McENROE: Yes.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Going to have a blast returning.
JOHN McENROE: The court is going to be very fast (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: You heard it here first.
Juan, what is it going to be like to be coached by John McEnroe, someone I imagine you watched growing up?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: What I say, it's an honor for me to sit close to him, to learn what he wants to advise to me and the rest of the players. This happens only once a year, so it's a good opportunity to keep learning about this sport. Will be a pleasure to hear what he wants to advise for us.
JOHN McENROE: As you're well aware, we have very similar playing styles (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: John, talk about your pick in Jack Sock. On the doubles court in particular has had an incredible year. He had success last year in Laver Cup.
JOHN McENROE: You just hit the nail on the head. He's the best doubles player in the world. He's been struggling obviously in singles. He had a great run at the end of last year. I believe he put a lot of pressure on himself to try to back that up. It's taken its toll.
He's a great team player, as Nick is. I believe they'll make each other better. I believe that being around a team atmosphere is going to help Jack hopefully play some great singles, as well.
THE MODERATOR: A question for all of you. Any team matchups, Team World-Team Europe, you're particularly looking forward to?
JOHN McENROE: Juan Martin versus Novak Djokovic (laughter).
You're going to see the best play their best, playing their best.
THE MODERATOR: Really every match has a potential to be a slam semifinal, final level.
JOHN McENROE: There's no question. Listen, Kevin Anderson has a lot to be proud of. He came here and got to the finals of the US Open last year. He backed it up with a great run in Wimbledon. Isner came off his best ever run. Most of these guys are playing with a lot of confidence.
Nick is I'd say very unpredictable. He rises to the occasion up against the best players. He usually plays his best against Novak and Roger. It's going to be interesting.
THE MODERATOR: One of the breakout stars of the inaugural Laver Cup were the sideline celebrations, in particular for Team World. Novak, I feel if there was ever someone to bring it to the Team Europe side, it would be you. Do you have any plans?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No pressure, no pressure (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Any ideas or thoughts?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I haven't looked into the choreography yet. I obviously have to talk with our team members to see whether we are going to do something about it.
I don't think we will be a competition to Team World because they just mastered the choreography behind the court.
ROD LAVER: You have Bjorn Borg. He's a showman.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We'll try to relax Mr. Borg.
THE MODERATOR: Finally, John, I want to wrap up by talking one more time about Chicago, about that home-court advantage, what it's going to mean to Team World. It also has a special place in your heart career-wise.
JOHN McENROE: You may be referring to the last tournament I ever won, where I beat my brother in the final.
Chicago is a great sports town. I think the people in the States understand that. I think other than I'm a little biased, but I believe New York is the greatest city in the world, followed very closely by Chicago.
New York has the US Open, so given the fact that the proximity in terms of the calendar, it makes sense to try to bring it to a place where they're hungry for some great tennis action. It's been a long time since there's been an event there. From what I'm hearing, the people are very excited in Chicago about having this event.
THE MODERATOR: Last but not least, any advice for Juan and Novak? You can give it to Juan and Novak can listen if you don't want to give advice to the opposing side.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: You can say in Spanish (laughter).
JOHN McENROE: The only words I know in Spanish are curse words (laughter).
I think we have to keep things close to the vest right now. As you notice, this guy seems to be playing pretty well again. We have our hands full. I think we're going to have a couple tricks up our sleeve.
THE MODERATOR: It is going to be fun to watch.
Juan, being from Argentina, a sports country with so much pride, when we hear DelPo, DelPo, Ole, I think we might...
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: We will have our Argentinian fans in Chicago, for sure, as Serbia has. But I think I have a big fans here in New York that they make me feel so special playing this tournament. I like to hear that sound everywhere. They make me feel so good.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I like to sing it. I sing it to him in the locker room (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We need video of that, I think.
Juan, any doubles teammates that you would possibly like to team up with?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: I'm not too good in doubles. But my captain will be very smart to pick up our team doubles. It will be great to play with these guys. They are so good playing singles, doubles. I think our best doubles player upon the team could be Jack Sock for the moment. It will be nice to play with all of them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions from the media.
Q. There's a crowded marketplace for team competitions in tennis, Davis Cup, the ATP next year. Give your thoughts on why the team competition is so popular now, and if there's enough place in the marketplace for three of them.
JOHN McENROE: That's sort of obviously a hot topic right now. I think if anyone has heard what I've had to say over the course of the last 40 years, change has been needed for a long time. The critical thing to me is we have an event that to me was the most successful event I'd seen in tennis in 10 years, 15 years. We should nurture that. Everyone should rally around it.
What happens with the other events and what ends up really happening is something that remains to be seen. I think clearly from a certain standpoint the players, because it's an individual sport, love to get out there and play a team event.
But it is crowded. It still has to be, in my opinion, worked out. I don't think the ink is dry on all this. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's all been decided.
To me we have Rod Laver. We should make sure this event, in my personal opinion, the players, the powers that be, the leaders of our sport, want this to be successful.
ROD LAVER: I played Davis Cup for Australia for I think five or six years, enjoyed every moment of it. It was quite an experience. I think the same with John, Novak. I don't think it's found its right location yet, the way they're putting it together.
The Laver Cup, certainly I'm excited that it's named after me, but just seeing what I saw at Prague last year, the interest that was there, I think hopefully we'll see it again in Chicago. That's the deal. All the players that are here, but the crowd over there, they haven't seen this sort of tennis ever.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much. We appreciate your perspective.
I think that wraps it up this morning. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports