When rivals join hands

When rivals join hands

When rivals join hands

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will play doubles together in a new competition pitting Europe against the Rest of the World in a Ryder Cup-style tennis team event.

The Laver Cup was launched in New York on Wednesday with Federer and Nadal, who have won 31 Grand Slam titles between them, both committed to the event which will be held for the first time in Prague from September 22-24 next year.

Former Grand Slam heavyweights Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe will be the captains. Organisers of the tournament, named after Rod Laver, the last man to achieve the calendar Grand Slam in 1969, are hopeful that the current top two in the world — Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — will also be persuaded to play.

The new tournament would likely be played just a week after the Davis Cup semifinals.
“It’s going to be unbelievable to be on the same side of the net as Rafa finally. It’s a great feeling not facing the big forehand,” said 35-year-old Federer, who attended the launch despite injury ruling him out of the US Open which starts in New York on Monday.

Nadal, who has won 23 of his 34 career meetings against Federer, was equally appreciative when asked to list the qualities of his rival. “Every one,” said the 30-year-old Spaniard.

Under the format of the Laver Cup, which will be played every year except in an Olympic season, there will be four matches each day — three in singles, one in doubles.

Europe would start as favourites based on current rankings — at the moment there are only five non-Europeans in the world top 20.

The leading player outside of Europe is Canada’s world number six and Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic, ranked at six and currently coached by McEnroe.

“Milos sees these all-time greats and trying to bridge that gap, trying to figure out a way that he can get closer to the (top) guys,” said McEnroe.

Fedex eyes Jan return
Meanwhile, Federer said that he plans to return to competition in Australia in January at the Hopman Cup and the Australian Open.

The Swiss world number four said he was taking a positive outlook. "I don't see it as the end of something. I see it as a beginning to something I'm working for, and when I come back to the Hopman Cup and then to the Australian Open ... that's what I'm working for now," said the 35-year-old Federer.

"I'm doing well and I've been training as much as I possibly could to restrengthen my quad and my body to keep it in shape," said Federer, who had surgery on his left knee in February.

"So when I head back into the gym for full on fitness in the next couple of months, then I'm ready for it. I just hope to be super strong when I come back in January."
AFP

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