Federer relishes joining forces with rival Nadal

PRAGUE • Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will set aside their long-time rivalry when they play for Europe against the rest of the world in the inaugural Laver Cup which starts today.

Team Europe, featuring the world's top two tennis players, are overwhelming favourites to win the three-day tournament, which is named after Australian great Rod Laver. The squad boasts a combined 36 Grand Slam singles titles against none for Team World.

The teams are captained by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, whose rivalry featured a contrast in temperament and style that made their matches the kind of must-watch events that Laver Cup organisers hope to showcase.

Conceived by Federer and his sports management company Team8, the tournament is the latest to join a crowded calendar.

World No. 2 Federer played down the impact of another event, saying matches over a short period were manageable and gave players on the two teams the chance to build camaraderie.

"I don't think it's too much otherwise all the players wouldn't be here," the Swiss said. "The best (players) in the world are very picky in what (tournaments) they play, which (is why it) is great they made this a priority.

"(We're) looking forward to making friendships because we play together and not against each other for a change."

Team Europe also includes German Alexander Zverev, Croatia's Marin Cilic, Austrian Dominic Thiem and Czech Tomas Berdych.

Team World features Americans Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, John Isner and Frances Tiafoe plus Australia's Nick Kyrgios and Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

They were hit by 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro's late withdrawal due to injury.

"I'm expecting a lot of fun but at the same time I know it's going to be very competitive," Kyrgios said.

The tournament features three singles and one doubles match each day. A win is worth one point on Friday, two on Saturday and three on Sunday. The indoor hard-court matches at Prague's O2 Arena will be best-of-three sets with a 10-point tie-break deciding the final set. With no player featuring in singles more than twice during the first two days, Nadal, 31, and Federer, 36, could see themselves on the same side of the net in a mouthwatering doubles pairing.

"We don't even know if captain Borg is going to pick us but, of course, I would love to play with Rafa and see that forehand do damage on the other side (of the net)," Federer said.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

LAVER CUP

Day 1: Session 1 & 2 Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 7pm and tomorrow, 1am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2017, with the headline 'Federer relishes joining forces with rival Nadal'. Print Edition | Subscribe