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September 19, 2018
DARREN PEARCE: Welcome to Laver Cup 2018. We will be passing microphone around for questions. Hands up in advance.
Q. First of all, welcome. John, I want to start with you. I think there is an amendment that needs to be made. I think you forgot about Jack Sock's US Open title?
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Oh, my goodness. I apologize for that. He did win the doubles. And he won the mixed a couple years ago. Maybe because of his Laver Cup success this year he will win the US Open singles in the next year or two.
Q. A question for Novak. Busy guy, busy schedule. What made you want to add this to your schedule this tournament? What makes it special for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I thought, as I said on the stage, I thought this event was very unique in many ways. And obviously it's my debut this year, but I was watching it on the TV last year and it was very exciting to see a new concept; to see, you know, many of the guys that shared rivalries throughout their careers, like Roger and Rafa, for example, playing on the same side of the courts, supporting each other.
It's a great team spirit. That's something that we are missing a little bit because we play mostly for ourselves and our team, but, you know, it's mostly individual tournaments. You know, aside of this, Davis Cup is the only team competition that really, so to say, counts historically.
It's great to see a concept like this in this format working well, and I obviously wanted to be a part of this and have this great experience.
Q. To both John and Bj√∂rn, how different is this year going to be, do you think, compared to last year, which was so exciting and thrilling right down to the last match? What similarities or differences do you see for this year's championship?
CAPTAIN BJORN BORG: I think it's going to be as exciting as it was last year in Prague. The tennis was unbelievable. The people enjoyed it. The best players in the world were playing, and they're playing here too.
I'm very happy to have such a great team this year. Even Team World has an unbelievable team, so I think it's going to be very exciting matches. Looking forward going into the weekend. It's, for me, it's an unbelievable -- it's a pleasure and exciting.
This year, the most important week for me is this week, personally, because spending time and being around the best players in the world, it's a great thing.
But I think or I believe that this event, Laver Cup, will stay forever. It's a huge thing. Everybody enjoyed it. It's going to be for many, many more years to come.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Bj√∂rn said what I was thinking. But when you play in a city like Chicago, which is a great sports town -- Prague has a history of supporting team events, so we were all pleasantly surprised how into it they were. In part, that pumped up the players, as well.
We have four of the six core guys from last year. I think together we work really well, so we're excited. But we're hopeful that the crowd is as involved or more than they were last year.
Q. For any of the players, 51 weeks out of the year you compete against each other and the whole objective is to beat the other guy on the other side of the court. This week, Roger, you and Novak may be paired together, or John, you may be paired with somebody. What kind of mental challenge is that knowing you want to beat Novak every time you play him and now you have to play a set with him against players like that. Is that tough?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, yeah, I mean, it's different, different mindset. I think the mindset here for me is always the team comes first. If that means I have less practice time or I can help Novak work on his return and I can hit extra serves to him so he plays better on the weekend, you know, you're at the service of the team.
It's a different organization, as well. It comes from Thomas, the coach, and Bj√∂rn, the captain, and it trickles down all the way to us. We try to come up with a game plan; also in terms of who plays, who practices when, who needs what. It's like getting to know each other.
So they have the core guys of four guys. Me and Sascha are the only guys from last year's team again on this team. We are happy to be having a team dinner tonight. Not that we need to get to know each other, because I know this guy here (smiling). But it's just good for team spirit always to spend extra time to talk about life, talk about -- maybe we actually need to talk about what are the opportunities for the weekend in terms of who should play singles when and doubles and the same thing, because there are a lot of ramifications.
I enjoy the idea of being rivals throughout the year and then coming together like this for a weekend. It's incredibly exciting.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: We're even more concerned now, because Roger is helping -- we noticed Novak was, at Wimbledon and the U.S., he seemed to be struggling with his return.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, that's why I said that.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I didn't know.
JOHN ISNER: He needs those extra reps.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Yeah, more practice.
Q. Roger, can you tell us what the experience is like going into this tournament? It's been a success in the first year. So compared to what it felt like a year ago? I guess you had a few butterflies before the first day.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it was definitely rather nerve-wracking last year. Didn't know when the crowds were going to show up, how were the players -- I think in particular how the players were going to react last year. You know, were they in it fully? Which I thought they would be, because I don't see another way to play tennis. Either it's hit and giggle, but to watch four matches a day hit and the giggle over a full weekend, I just don't think anybody wants to see that. At the end, you will just be yawning and walking out of the stadium. Or you can see great tennis, competitive. And tennis players are winners. We don't like to lose. We can't play for a draw.
So I think for that reason this was always going to happen with the intensity that Rafa was going to bring, and me, with this event. This event is so close to my heart. I was always going to try my best. And when you do that, the opponents also have no choice but to step in and give everything they have. The rest of the team follows.
It was a beautiful thing to see, especially also how everyone wanted to support on the bench, because that was another open question last year. We didn't know how that was going to go and how people were going to react. Then there were even exchanges between, you know, players with Bj√∂rn during the match to the other player and trying to come up with better tactical plans during the match.
I mean, there was a lot of key moments last year that I didn't know were going to happen. So it really exceeded all my expectations. This year I know more so what's going to happen, but yet, I think, because, you know, we have different characters on the team, it's just going to be a different week, which is super exciting.
Q. Kevin is the most local guy in the event. Have you been answering questions about Chicago? What did you think when it was awarded? Have you had a lot of good times in the city over the years?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, definitely. I have done quite a few interviews about spending a lot of time here in Illinois. As you said, my wife's family is from just 20 minutes north of here. Obviously spent two-and-a-half years at the University of Illinois. It's a very special place for me. I love being in the city. When I saw it was going to be in Chicago, I was really excited about that, especially tennis in a city that's so crazy about sports.
I feel like tennis hasn't been able to have the same exposure, so bringing an event like this with some of the best players in the world, both present and past, I really hope it, you know, gives tennis a sort of the amount of credit it deserves. People love tennis here. I have been to a lot of different clubs. I've spent a lot of time playing here. There is no shortage of tennis players. I really hope that this is a first step to bringing just more tennis to Chicago.
Q. To Rod, please, this tournament has put you very much in the spotlight over the last couple of years, a lot of media demands. How does it compare this last couple of years with how it was when you were winning your big titles all those years back?
ROD LAVER: Boy, there is a lot of changes made. Of course, as you all probably know, it was amateur tennis back in my years. And then, you know, I had great success there. But then I felt I wanted to, you know, turn professional, and I had to say good-bye to the likes of Wimbledon and Forest Hills and the French.
It's amazing to think that Open tennis came five years after I turned pro. It was, for me, you know, it was sort of nothing much in the amateur world, and then I went into the pro-only world, and now coming to Open tennis and seeing -- well, right now you have 12 of the best players in the world here competing, you know, over a three-day competition.
It's totally changed, you know, my life. Of course, I'm honored to have my name associated with this event, and I think it's just thrilling to see that, you know, the amount of competition that's going on within the players, but then when you look at last year, 17,000 or 18,000 people watching the tennis, that instills enthusiasm with the players. Again, I think we've got the same amount of people that are going to be watching this this week.
You know, it certainly has changed. You know, it's upended the amateur world. And now it's being Open and having Roger and Rafa and Novak, you know, all competing as they do in Open tennis, yes, a lot more money than I played for, but for me, it's a thrill to see tennis doing so well.
Q. Thank you all for coming to Chicago. This is for Novak. Novak, you already spent some time with the kids in Chicago, your Foundation. How was that experience for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was a great experience. It was yesterday at XS Tennis facility. It was nice to have a little bit more time to dedicate myself to the Foundation's work, and this morning Roger was kind enough and also Mr. Laver to be attending the breakfast for our Foundation.
It was great. You know, it's fantastic, and the team, Foundation's team is here. We got to play some tennis with about 80 kids. Almost half of them were from Serbian community around here that is very big. So that was something that was obviously very close to my heart to see -- it feels like home to see that many people speaking my language.
It was great. Obviously I'm going to see a lot of them over the weekend, and hopefully we can have a good time.
Q. A question for Roger. So next year you get to go against, play in front of your home country. That must be very exciting, but obviously with your age, things are getting on and talk of retirement. How do you see Laver Cup, your role in it going forward over the coming years as you're one of the organizers?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, No. 1, I hope I qualify as long as possible, and if I don't qualify anymore, I hope I get a pick from time to time from my man over here (laughter) since I'm always very nice to him.
No, we get along well, so that's not the problem. Very happy to pack up and give my spot to somebody else if I wouldn't deserve it anymore. Of course when I retire, things will change. Honestly, I don't know how I will be involved in the Laver Cup or not.
Of course, if you see the camaraderie that, you know, John and Bj√∂rn have, you wish that maybe one day you can also be doing something like this as a captain or a coach.
You know, that was the idea behind the Laver Cup is to bring all these different generations of tennis players together so everybody can have a good time, learn from one another. If I can be involved down the road, sure, I'll be very happy.
But of course now, looking ahead also to Geneva next year when the Laver Cup is going to go there in my home country -- it was not the idea, actually, to have the Laver Cup in my home country. It just happened that this European city with Geneva where I have played some really big matches in the past has a big appetite for tennis, and they tried really hard to get the Laver Cup, and I was, like, Yes, absolutely, we could make that happen. That would be beautiful.
There is a chance clearly that I can still play there next year. So I'm just thrilled that it's Geneva, and I'm thrilled for the Laver Cup it's doing so well. And I'm happy all the players have shown up and are ready to give it all they have.
Q. Another question for Novak. In the US Open championship press conference, you mentioned you climbed the mountain with your wife after the French Open, and something great will happen after you climbed that mountain. I'm curious, how did you spend last two weeks after US Open as champion? Did you climb another mountain?
ROGER FEDERER: Switzerland has good mountains, by the way (smiling).
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I climbed the mountains of toys with my children in the last week. Ever since New York, I spent a lot of quality time with kids. Obviously Roger knows a thing or two, having four children. I have two, and hands full. It's the most beautiful thing. Life goes on.
Obviously I'm very proud of the achievements I had in the last couple of months and has been amazing journey, but at the same time, you know, when I get home, I have, you know, different role and I have to put racquet aside and that's the beauty. It balances things out. Gives more meaning to everything.
Q. Kev, you don't get to play Davis Cup that much at all. Being the rookie this year over here, what's it like to be in this sort of a team competition?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I haven't played as many Davis Cup ties, but I think back to sort of college days. Roger was talking earlier about sort of the team aspect. John, he was there for four years, and I was there for two-and-a-half years. We know that very well. We know what it's like competing in that sort of an environment. This is probably as close as it gets to that.
I think we both had a great time in college. It was, you know, really important for us, for our tennis careers. I think it's going to be exciting being on the same team. Of course it's different, you know, sort of echoing the same words, we spend the whole year competing against each other. Davis Cup, we spend time with people from our home countries.
But this is a little bit different, a bit more global. Guys from not necessarily your own country. Myself and John, this is the only time we're going to get to compete with each other instead of against each other. I think it's a great opportunity.
Q. Roger, doubles could be the decider on this. Why the importance on doubles, and how important is that for singles players? And will you guys play together?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I would like to play with Novak. I hope he feels the same way. We're figuring it out as we speak, I think, internally, like, what are the best teams? Because we have a lot of singles guys on the team.
Last year also Rafa, he did play more doubles than us sometimes in the past. I haven't played doubles since last year, so I'm firing. I won my match last year. I feel like I'm really confident from that match still (smiling).
No, all kidding aside, we will be practicing our doubles this afternoon, John, in case you want to come watch that?
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Is that okay? Yeah, I'd like to. What time?
ROGER FEDERER: I think from 4:00 to 5:00.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Perfect.
ROGER FEDERER: We are doing that.
No, I'm not kidding. I think the doubles will be really crucial, as we saw last year. I think they are, unfortunately, the favorites for all three matches in the doubles. This is where we have to come up with a couple of super teams ourselves, as singles players melt together and say, How are we going to do that?
Thankfully it's super-tiebreakers at the end and no ad scoring. I think it's going to keep it closer together, and everything is possible. We have to be super sharp. Having Novak on the team with his momentum, winning the US Open for singles is key, I think, down the stretch maybe. But also in doubles it's going to help, because he is struggling a lot with the return lately.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Don't believe a word he's saying, okay? He's trying to get sympathy. It's incredible. We're worried about his doubles.
ROGER FEDERER: Kevin, you have a lot of pressure with John in the chair. Last year he was extremely aggressive to some of the players, like he was really firing them up. I hope you can handle that. Bj√∂rn is very relaxed and mellow. We know what we're getting into.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Yes. Listen, we've got to bring energy. We're going to bring some energy.
ROGER FEDERER: Thanks for being here.
CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Thanks for coming.
DARREN PEARCE: Thanks, everyone.
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