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January 29, 2016
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
DARREN PEARCE: Hello, everyone. Thank you for coming. I'd like to introduce our Tennis Australia president Steve Healy, who will make introductions, then some short statements and then we're open for some questions.
STEPHEN HEALY: Good evening, everyone. It's a fantastically exciting day. I'm absolutely delighted to be here with the incomparable Rod Laver, a beloved figure in our game, a true sportsman and ambassador.
I'd like to introduce Tony Godsick, the president and CEO of Team8.
And Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia CEO and Australian Open tournament director.
We are here today to announce another innovation in tennis, an event that will bring together the tennis community all around the world of one of our greatest champions.
I'm very proud to announce a new event, the Laver Cup, which will be presented by Team8 in partnership with Tennis Australia and Jorge Paulo Lemann.
To tell you more about the event, I'm going to ask Craig Tiley to speak more.
CRAIG TILEY: Thank you, and welcome, everyone. This truly an exciting day for tennis and for global tennis to be able to make the announcement for Laver Cup and of course having Rod Laver next to me and his name on this global competition.
It's going to be held once a year, except obviously for the Olympic year. We're going to have it at Europe versus the rest of the world, so very similar to the Ryder Cup, The Presidents Cup, and it's something we believe tennis really needs.
It's going to put the best players against each other in a format that's going to be exciting for the fans, and it's going to add true value to tennis and global tennis.
This has been a project that's been in the working for a while, and now to finally have the Laver Cup come to fruition with the type of partnerships we do, really excited about that.
I'll hand it over to Tony.
TONY GODSICK: We're really excited and proud to announce today the Laver Cup. It's true honor to be up here with the greatest player that's ever lived, Mr. Rod Laver. We're excited to partner with Tennis Australia and my good friend Jorge to bring this event to the world stage.
This came about a couple years ago. We've been talking about doing something with Rod Laver to honor his legacy. We've come up with a format and platform that we think will do the sport great and is really exciting. I'm really proud to be here. Thank you very much.
DARREN PEARCE: Questions.
Q. Have you already been in touch with some of the top players? I think it will depend if they come to play or not.
CRAIG TILEY: We have been in communication. Obviously this is the first announcement of it. We've notified the top players. Several of the top players and their management teams. The feedback has been positive. Obviously we're at the beginning of this.
2017 is the plan for the first event, so we'll continue on the journey of getting the top players to play. I think it's important to note that this, again, will be a global event, a lot of fun for the fans, and we expect great participation by the top players.
Q. Rod, you have an incredible legacy and history in Davis Cup. This is going to be staged in September, I understand, just after Davis Cup. How are you going to make sure that it's not taking away from Davis Cup?
ROD LAVER: I'm certainly honored that it warrants the name the Laver Cup. It's a great feeling.
I think if you're in the Davis Cup format you're sort of country to country. It's always been that way. This is just purely Europe against the rest of the world. Hopefully the top players will want to participate.
It's a learning curve of trying to get the right scheduling and the right amount of play with all of different players around the world.
But I'm honored to have my name associated with the Laver Cup.
STEPHEN HEALY: Tennis Australia is one of the greatest Davis Cup nations in the world. We will never do anything to hurt Davis Cup. We want to participate and win Davis Cup.
We see this as a different event. This is a very short event, over three days. The Davis Cup is a completely different character and format.
We don't think one will affect the other.
Q. Aren't you afraid that they could become a sort of an exhibition, I mean, with players playing maybe because they get a lot of money, TV rights and everything else, but will not try as hard as they should do in a normal competition?
CRAIG TILEY: There's going to be substantial prize money. We'll have some forthcoming announcements over the coming period to let everyone know what that is.
This is going to be a team event, getting the best European players to together to play against the best players from the rest of the world. You've seen what's happened with the Ryder Cup and where it is today. We believe it's going to become a stop on the calendar that's a must-do for the players and the fans.
We're going to build it as such. In our preliminary discussions with the playing group, there's a lot of excitement about that.
Q. They won't play for ranking points?
CRAIG TILEY: There's no ranking points at this stage, no.
Q. Given Tennis Australia is involved, what are the chances the first one will be in Australia?
TONY GODSICK: Right now we're currently in discussions with a lot of different cities around the world. We don't yet have a plan exactly where we think it will be. Certainly at some point in time, whether it's the first, the second, whatever it is, I imagine it will be in Australia.
We'll have other announcements later this year as to location and the exact dates and logistics.
Q. Was there any thought to make it a mixed event? Was there thought of including women?
TONY GODSICK: Right now the concept is for it just to be a men's event. Obviously in the future we can look at different options that could include the women.
Right now we are creating this event for six men on each side, but we're open to discussions in the future about doing something with women if that might work.
Q. What will be the prize money?
TONY GODSICK: The prize money is going to be released probably later this year. It's going to be significant prize money. We'll have those details for you at that time.
Q. What kind of cities would be involved for next year?
TONY GODSICK: We're looking at major cities. We would like to go to cities where tennis might not be. What we're trying to create here is something that helps the entire sport of tennis. We'll take that into consideration as we pick the cities throughout the years.
Q. What are the financial imperatives of this? Is it a not-for-profit event or will it be promoted for commercial profit? Will some of the proceeds go back into the game?
TONY GODSICK: We definitely will have a charitable element to it. Part of the thing we want to do here, not just with the platform in creating an exciting event to help it grow the sport of tennis, but we'll also look at opportunities to take some funds that we will make during this event and throw it back into the sport of tennis and different charities.
We'll talk all about that later this summer.
Q. Tony, we keep hearing from the men's tour, from the women's tour, the calendar is probably too congested and they want to cut back. Now, a player that you've managed for many years is very selective in the events he plays because he doesn't want to overstress himself. Do you not think this is putting another event into an already congested calendar?
TONY GODSICK: First of all, you have to look at what kind of event this is. This is a three-day event where the players will play a maximum of two singles and a minimum of one. They might not have to play doubles.
We think there's room on the calendar. It's a wonderful event. We don't think it will be too taxing on the players. We're not extending the season at the end of the year. We're going to create an environment and an opportunity for the players that will work. We're really excited about it.
CRAIG TILEY: To add to that, the objective is it's a global event, an event that has global significance. By the structure and character that we've designed of this event, it will have that.
Q. You're comparing it to the Ryder Cup. When that started, Britain and America were the only two countries that played golf a lot. It developed over the years. Why do you think the players will care enough to compete for Europe against the rest of the world when they don't really have that kind of competition anyway?
TONY GODSICK: Look, the whole goal here is for 51 weeks a year, these guys are rivals. How great would it be to see these rivals teammates, playing for each other, having fun, doing it on the world stage? We believe that's what makes this unique.
That's why it's different than the Davis Cup. The Davis Cup is country to country.
Q. I understand that. But you're saying the players will play flat out and it will be very important to them. Sounds more like a fun event.
TONY GODSICK: We hope it's going to be a fun event for the players, and for you guys as well. We hope they'll play hard for Mr. Laver. This is a Cup being named after the greatest player of all time.
We hope with his name on it, the passion he exhibits for it, this will be enough for the players to look at it as a serious event and something to look forward to every year, qualifying and playing. That's the hope.
Q. What is the feedback from the ATP about that? Have you worked with them? Are they happy to see this happen?
CRAIG TILEY: We've notified the ATP and spoken to Chris Kermode. He's supportive of the event and the ATP is supportive of the event. There's quite a few logistics we're working out for the rest of this year. The launch of it will be in 2017.
From all initial conversations we've had, we've had support from everyone. We look at this as a great opportunity for the sport. Over time this is going to develop, as we mentioned about the Ryder Cup, into something that's going to be very significant for the players' schedules and the calendar and the significance of the sport globally.
Q. Do you see 12 players and media coming from all over the world, for instance to Australia, for just three days?
TONY GODSICK: We hope so. We hope you make that trip. That would be great.
Look, Australia is one place where we're going to go. It's wonderful down here. Modern technology and air travel it's pretty easy to get down here. Sure, it's a long way, but it looks like everyone is having a good time.
Hopefully we create a product that the players, tennis family, the media, and most importantly the fans will want to go to. We think we will be able to do that.
Q. Will the way the players qualify, do they have to play if they qualify?
TONY GODSICK: No, they don't. No, they don't.
Q. Mr. Laver, how do you feel with Novak's domination? Do you think there's a chance for anyone to fight against Djokovic in this moment? We're talking about Roger and Rafa or whoever. How do you feel about this?
ROD LAVER: Are you talking about winning a Grand Slam?
Q. Winning everything.
ROD LAVER: Well, I certainly almost saw it last year, except for the French. I would have thought it would have been a perfect situation for him. He had three legs in at that stage.
I think it's good for the sport if someone does win a Grand Slam. This is not a club that I'm a member of. It's an open course. I think someone like Novak is I think well on his way trying to accomplish that.
Yes, we're at the very beginning. I remember when Roy Emerson and I were competitors back in our era. After one of us won the Australian, you'd say, I guess I'm going for the Grand Slam.
Everybody knew about it. That's the same way I think Novak will be able to accomplish it. He's going to have a lot of competition. It's not to say Roger's going to -- maybe he's going to play a little better next time they play.
But of course you have Raonic, you have a lot of players in there, that are just starting to come into their own. I think that will show up through this year.
But Novak certainly has a chance to pull off a Grand Slam.
Q. And Rafa?
ROD LAVER: Rafa, he's the one that spoiled Federer's chance because he's the world's best clay-courter. Roger didn't have much of a chance to pull it off.
But I think Rafa certainly has that ability. He has sort of slipped a little bit. I don't know whether anyone knows why it's slipped. Potentially his forehand doesn't seem to be as good as it was three and four years ago. That heavy topspin, that speed he put on the ball. You know, the ball jumps; he hit it deep; he was on the offensive all the time.
It just seems that he's not quite the same when he's hitting that shot. It's more keeping it in play, not trying to be really attacking.
Q. You watched the first two sets of Novak last night. How good was that of anything you've ever seen?
ROD LAVER: Looking at the mistakes, I think Novak had maybe five mistakes in those two sets. It was just quite incredible the speed he was getting around the court and being able to hit great shots down the line, just an inch inside the line.
I don't think Roger was negative in hitting any groundstrokes. It looked like he was doing pretty well with the groundstrokes when he came to the net, but Novak had all the answers and he played beautifully.
Q. Mr. Laver, we're talking about an international competition here. If you were asked, what would be your single favorite memory from all your years in Davis Cup?
ROD LAVER: Well, probably the very last one we played, playing against the U.S. in Cleveland at the Kiel Auditorium. At this stage, I think I was 36 or 37. Rosewall was probably 38. Newcombe was 35.
All of a sudden here we are, we're in the final. I think they called us the Geritol Squad.
For me it was a thrill to be able to be back. Neale Fraser, the captain, he said, You have to earn your way into this match or this competition.
So I remember I think it was the -- I think it was Custom Credit in Sydney. I played Rosewall in the semifinal, Newcombe in the final. I came off and I had won both. He says, You've earned your way; you're in.
But that to me was really a thrill to be able to represent Australia again. It's always a thrill to represent your country.
STEPHEN HEALY: And we won.
ROD LAVER: And we won.
Q. Mr. Laver, Kim Clijsters, she's always been embraced by every Australian. Have you embraced her and what are your thoughts on her?
ROD LAVER: Kim is a great player and a great representative of ladies' tennis. It's terrific to see her playing again. I don't know whether this is just a one-shot deal. She's a fabulous player. She had a lot of competition, like Henin.
It's terrific to see what ladies' tennis has done in probably the last eight or ten years. You see Serena's game, all of it.
But Kim, she's a great player.
Q. Rod, having watched Roger last night, do you think Roger still has a Grand Slam win in him?
ROD LAVER: I tend to think so. I thought even this time he looked like he was playing great tennis those two matches prior. So when you see that, you think, Well, yeah, Roger's got a chance.
You saw what happened for those two sets. Yes, Roger was prepared to put a lot of effort in, and he did win the third set. So, yeah, somewhere around the line maybe Wimbledon is an opportunity for him to do that.
He certainly knows the territory. He knows the competition. If he gets a good draw, and I think that's always very big, there's probably two, three, four guys that you would really rather not have to play. If they're in the other half, you've got an opportunity.
I think it's possible. But maybe it's a big stretch.
DARREN PEARCE: Thanks, everyone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports