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January 23, 2019

Rod Laver

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

ROD LAVER: It's amazing what the Laver Cup has done since Prague and Chicago. It's just a thrill to have my name representing the new breed.

I know that Roger Federer is really the inspiration for this event. He felt that Open Tennis has been here for 50 years, but before that there was a whole lot of amateur champions that are going to get -- he didn't want to see that get lost in the shuffle.

Roger is a historian, and I think he felt that my name was big enough to be able to represent all the past champions.

Q. What do you think the Laver Cup has brought to tennis?
ROD LAVER: Well, I think it's probably the camaraderie with the players is the first thing, seeing how they were allowed to be on court or next to the court when the players were out there competing. They were cheering on their partners, you know, whether it's Europe versus the rest of the world. So seeing that, I think, is a great feeling for tennis and young players coming up through the ranks.

But I think, yeah, the matches were -- you know, there is a little bit of a different format, you know, just playing -- if it's a set all, you play a tiebreaker for the third set, but that allows more matches to be played and not long, drawn-out matches. Because it's not an event where there are a lot of long matches or matches that had to be won.

Some of those players, if they're used to playing matches that are long and battles, these are more sharper matches. If it's a set all, you play a tiebreaker for the third set.

But the nice feeling is that, you know, to make sure the third day is represented by players. The first day you get one point; second day, two points; third day you get three points. So the third day becomes the most important day. I think that's one of the things that, you know, the Laver Cup has provided is that challenge.

Q. Congrats on the golden anniversary of your slams. What are your thoughts on the implementation of the tiebreaker here in Australia and now at Wimbledon as we know it and the implementation of those changes through the years?
ROD LAVER: Yeah, there are a lot of changes. I think you saw at Wimbledon the long, long matches. You're not expecting -- you would think the fifth set isn't going to be, so long and tedious.

But, yeah, it really, not destroys the game, but, you know, years and years back when we played Davis Cup, the fifth set was, you know, a criteria for the game. I think we didn't have a tiebreaker then, but we didn't go into long, drawn-out matches.

The tiebreaker is a good plan, and I think -- I don't actually know what the tiebreaker is in Wimbledon. 12-All? They play just a regular tiebreaker? Just a regular? I think it was a regular.

And the one down here, I'm not sure. At 6-All it's a 10-pointer? Sometimes I lose track of what's going. I think the 10-point tiebreaker, it's about three-and-a-half games of actual play, and so that gives each side, you know, the chance.

I think the one thing that you want to always accomplish is the tiebreaker, you know, a 12-point tiebreaker at the end of five sets like they are showing it, maybe that's not quite enough. It's too abrupt. So therefore the 10 games, tiebreakers, is for me I think is a good plan.

Q. What do you make of the politics and the animosity that was sort of the highlight of the Australian men's tennis in the first week here? You have seen some really good times, and now you're seeing this. What's your take on that?
ROD LAVER: I don't know the way it's all unfolded. So to make a real decision on how it goes or what's happening -- you know, I think we had a few people back in our age, but today, press is going to, if someone wants to gripe or is a problem, you know, the press will pick it up.

But I think, for me, tennis is bigger than that. Yeah, there is always a few people in there that, you know, are not happy with the world of tennis, but, yeah, I think, yeah, you have to compete. I think a lot of times it's bad losses that brings up some of the things that come out of your mouth.

Q. Do you think it's not just the press picking up on it but people using the press and taking advantage of the situations to make statements?
ROD LAVER: For me, I think that's probably true. You have seen it around the world. A lot of the press, whether it be Wimbledon, any of the locations and the Grand Slams, Australia is no different.

But I think we've got some great young players now. I think Alex has shown -- and I can't think of the other guy's name. Alexei Popyrin. Yeah, they're going to be your next group of young players that come through with the names.

You know, I think someone like Tomic, some of these other players, I don't know whether they're hanging on or they're unhappy with their own game. I would think -- I think I played, I competed hard, and you shake hands when you lose and you say, Hey, but you're not going to get me again.

That attitude is, I think, healthy.

Q. Did it detract from the first week?
ROD LAVER: It did. Probably took something away from the tennis world. Again, those things happen, and I think it didn't take it away for long, because you saw -- you saw Tsitsipas brought a game up, and with Roger losing, which I was upset about, but he won it a couple of times and he's the third-time charm, but I think that happens. Ash Barty was a fresh look at the world of tennis.

Q. Now that Laver Cup is coming to Switzerland, Roger's home country, can you tell us what you think about this and recall some of your memory of Switzerland if ever you got it?
ROD LAVER: In Switzerland? I didn't play too much in Switzerland, but I think Geneva has got -- I think the third leg is exciting, I think, because of the Rolex sponsorship. It is I think a great time for Switzerland. And of course Roger represents the same company and lives there.

Q. You must have played up in Gstaad sometimes?
ROD LAVER: No, I have played in Switzerland. I think I played in Gstaad, and I think that was a big tournament in the amateur days for us.

Q. With Koebi Hermenjat, the tournament director?
ROD LAVER: Oh, yeah, Koebi. That was a staid event back in our years. I think Roy Emerson won it six times, or -- he retired the trophy. Put it that way. He won three in a row or three total. And Roy goes over there still and does a lot of coaching programs.

Q. Talking about you for a minute, how do you reflect on 50 years after 1969?
ROD LAVER: Well, the reflection is unbelievable. I'm so happy that I'm down here to celebrate it, to begin with. Just seeing what's happened here down at the Laver Cup and -- not the Laver Cup but the Laver stadium here, it's just amazing to think the Victoria government has put all of the funds into this event.

Yes, I think they're being paid back what I say in spades, but it's amazing to see the amount of interest that's out here, seeing that this is the third-busiest stadium in the world with Madison Square Garden and the O2 in London. It's amazing to think from tennis to entertainment.

Q. In 1969, what do you remember about winning all four?
ROD LAVER: Well, each one is in its own right. You don't say, I'm going to win the Grand Slam. It's a nine-month title, you know. So I guess, you know, I came down here in '69. This is the first time that all of them were going to be open.

Yeah, pride of being an Australian is how I would put it. I just wanted to be down here in -- I told my wife, I want to enter all four of them. And she says, Well, go ahead. It's your life with tennis.

And so I arrived down here, and she called me up and said she was pregnant. The due date was the exact date of the US Open final. You know, it may be a thing that was, everything was on my side to make this happen.

I think playing all of the tournaments -- I think everybody likes to compete. I'm thinking how many times some of the great champions that have passed through here, you know, in this time frame, and they haven't been able to win all four.

To me, it seems strange that that has happened. You know, you don't own this title. But for some reason -- I know Djokovic got close, he had three legs in but not in the same year but in a row.

I think Nadal and Djokovic have got to be in a position to win them all. I know that there are some criteria, when you look at the US -- not the US, but the French, and thinking, you know, they're all going for it. But guess who you got to beat? You got to beat Nadal in France, and he's won nine in a row or ten in a row now. You can win all the others, but you're not going to win the French. That's some of the things that happen in this world now.

Q. With the amount of competition that there is, the different surfaces, various other factors, do you think it will ever happen again or will yours be the last?
ROD LAVER: Well, it's got to happen again. You know, you're going to see some of the -- today's players, you're looking at height. Well, Milos, he's got a beautiful serve. Someone like that's gotta come on that has the rest of the game, the ground strokes, the ability to volley. It can happen.

I see it happening again, certainly, because -- you know, I guess backtracking with me, I played on grass, so three of the grass court tournaments -- the Australian, US Open, and Wimbledon -- and so maybe that gave me a better chance because I'm a grass court player, and the Europeans don't really play much on grass.

You know, yes, I had to win the French, but actually they were teaching me a lesson every time I walked on the court at the French, anywhere through Europe. I said, I've got to learn what these players are doing to me. And so I asked the gentleman that runs myself and Dunlop, and I said, Just enter me in all the tournaments, all the best players, I want to be in all of them, and I want to watch and see what they're doing.

And bit by bit, I found some of the secrets that they did. Because Australians play on grass. So you get an opportunity and a chance to hit a winner, so we Australians always went for it but they didn't. They just kept it going. I think that's the thing that, you know, gave me the opportunity to be able to win at the French.

Q. Did you have a sense of loss at all after you turned professional and there were those five years where you couldn't compete in the majors? What were your views about that at the time? Was that a sense of loss?
ROD LAVER: You know, I looked at amateur tennis, and it's not going to go open. They've tried to bring it open a few times, and it didn't. I said, I can't afford to stay this way. I haven't made anything out of the game.

So I just decided, yes, I'm going to have to turn pro in '63. I had won the '62 slam. You figure there's nothing, or you don't see anything ever, ever popping its head up and saying there's going to be money in this game.

So I elected to turn pro. My idol was Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall and Pancho González. They taught me a few lessons when I turned pro, because I had played Hoad 13 times, I think it was, and I couldn't win one match against him.

You're looking at the pros were so much better than the amateurs, and I think, well, if I'm at this level just above the others, the amateurs, I have no chance against these top players. They probably proved that as soon as Open Tennis came around. Rosewall wins the French.

Q. Does that make the '69 Grand Slam a bit sweeter than the '62 Grand Slam?
ROD LAVER: I think the '62 slam was because it hadn't been done. I think the '69 slam was certainly a players' game. That gave me the satisfaction, '69, that I could do it with all the players at the tournament. Because when we played -- well, you all probably know, Wimbledon was the reason why Open Tennis came about, because of Herman David, the chairman, said, We want you pros to play an eight-game pro set, win an eight-game tournament two weeks after 1967.

They said then 1968 you're welcome to play in our tournaments. We are not going to say amateurs. We are just going to say players.

Then I think Wimbledon, the French, all of them all got together and said, Well, let's go open. They are the ones that didn't need Open Tennis. They were always totally sold out.

It's a great feeling to be able to all compete again. My success, you know, maybe a light shown down on me that said, You're in this game for a reason. So compete hard and play hard, and I think that showed up in '69.

Q. What did you think of the movie, the film that's been made, the film to celebrate it? What do you think?
PRUE RYAN: He hasn't actually seen it. I think that brings us to the next stage. I will ask you to come and take a seat and watch the film.

CRAIG TILEY: Welcome. Welcome, everyone. It gives me a privilege to introduce, as part of the Legends Series, the first film, this is a six-minute film and it's about 50 years ago following 1969 or what happened in 1969.

It's the first part of the series that our production team has been working on with all our great legends. We are excited to be able to launch this, and of course fitting to launch it on your 50th-year anniversary. And congrats to our production team that have worked hard in the last year and a half putting all this together, as well as the other legends, which we are going to show yours.

Once we launch for the first time today, it will go out on all of our platforms and throughout the year and be used as a celebration of your achievement.

I wanted to have an opportunity -- is that your actual trophy or is that ours? That's yours. (Laughter.)

ROD LAVER: I have to also mention, to own this, my own trophy, the thrill of probably the whole Grand Slams, they're right here. I'm just thrilled that this has happened. You have made me a happy man.

CRAIG TILEY: Hopefully make you happier with the film.

(Film played.)


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