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On the Laver Cup, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray Make Team Europe Formidable

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When he announced his retirement from skilled tennis last week, Roger Federer put a cap on one of the crucial storied careers in the game. That he selected to finish competitive play on the Laver Cup, the Ryder Cup-style event that he and his management team founded in 2017 as a chummy atmosphere of star players to showcase great tennis, speaks volumes.

He’ll say goodbye to his fans while competing alongside his biggest rivals — Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — demonstrating just how necessary the Laver Cup, which starts on Friday in London, is and can proceed to be for Federer.

“It is a bittersweet decision because I’ll miss the whole lot the tour has given me,” he said on Twitter on Sept. 15. “But at the identical time there may be a lot to have fun. I consider myself one of the crucial fortunate people on Earth. I used to be given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for for much longer than I ever thought possible.”

The Big 4, as they’ve been known, have faced off countless times at Grand Slam events, but never have they been teamed together, until this weekend once they form the nucleus of Team Europe within the Laver Cup.

Those 4 players have been formidable. Between them, they’ve won 329 ATP titles during the last twenty years. They’ve amassed 66 major championships, including 19 at Wimbledon, 17 at each the Australian and French Opens and 13 at the USA Open. They’ve won greater than 4,000 matches and earned nearly half a billion dollars in prize money.

Every yr since 2004, considered one of them has ended the season ranked No. 1 on the planet. Federer, the oldest at 41, won his first match in September 1998 just after his seventeenth birthday, when he beat Guillaume Raoux in Toulouse, France.

“Let me first say, this is known,” said a grinning Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’s ranked No. 6 on the planet and is playing within the Laver Cup for the third straight time. “This team is a joke. That is Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls.”

When the Laver Cup began, Federer said on the time, “We want to see the legends of our sport more regularly, who we’d prefer to thank. It’s not only the players standing on court today, there’s so many more which have paved the best way for us so we will enjoy playing in front of a crowd like this, earn a living and live our dream. All of us, all we desired to do all our life is play tennis, and here we’re.”

The fifth edition of the competition will again include singles and doubles matches and likewise feature Casper Ruud, No. 2, and Tsitsipas for Team Europe against a contingent representing the remaining of the world. Called Team World since it includes players from other parts of the globe, the team includes Taylor Fritz, No. 12; Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 13; Diego Schwartzman, No. 17; Frances Tiafoe, No. 19; Alex de Minaur, No. 22; and Jack Sock, No. 128.

Tiafoe, who upset Nadal within the U.S. Open after which beat Andrey Rublev before falling within the semifinals to the eventual champion, Carlos Alcaraz, is a last-minute alternative for John Isner, who fractured his left wrist on the U.S. Open.

The captain of Team Europe is the six-time French Open, five-time U.S. Open champion Bjorn Borg. Leading Team World, which has lost every yr because the event’s inception, is the seven-time major winner John McEnroe.

“I really like being a part of this event in any way, shape or form,” said McEnroe, an ESPN commentator. “Just seeing my buddy Bjorn on the opposite side. Obviously, my days are getting numbered because my record isn’t too good. However the law of averages states that sooner or later Team World can come through. Because it’s more unpredictable this yr we go in with a solid puncher’s likelihood.”

The last time Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray were in the identical major tournament was the 2019 Australian Open when Djokovic won his record seventh championship.

McEnroe’s uncertainty centers on the health and ages of Federer, Nadal and Murray and the shortage of tournament play for Djokovic. The common age of Team Europe’s 4 marquee players is nearly 37, while the common age of Team World is about 26.

Djokovic, 35, who was barred from playing the Australian Open and the U.S. Open due to his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, has played just seven tournaments this yr. He won two of them, including Wimbledon, but his rating has dropped to No. 7.

Murray, 35, has shown stretches of brilliance this yr, notably when he beat Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios en path to the ultimate in Stuttgart in June. But he also didn’t win back-to-back matches from mid-January to early May.

Nadal, 36, has been hampered ever since he tore an abdominal muscle at Indian Wells in March. Then, after beating Fritz in a five-setter within the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Nadal was forced to withdraw before his semifinal match against Kyrgios. He also struggles with chronic foot pain.

Still, Nadal is looking forward to supporting his longtime friend Federer. Asked if he would play doubles with him, as he did in a win over Sock and Sam Querrey in 2017 — a match that featured a near midair collision and giggles between them — Nadal said he would jump at the possibility. “If the captain chooses us as teammates, why not?” Nadal said with a smile.

Federer will clearly be the largest draw of the weekend. He has not competed since last yr’s Wimbledon, when he lost within the quarterfinals to Hubert Hurkacz. Federer had knee surgery last yr in August and struggled to return to the tour, prompting his decision to retire.

Federer is an element owner of the Laver Cup. He missed last yr’s event due to his knee, but arrived on crutches to cheers from the fans and sat on the bench encouraging Team Europe. This yr he’ll do the whole lot he can to play, even whether it is just in doubles with Nadal.

For the younger players, just with the ability to share the Laver Cup experience with Federer is useful.

“I’ve learned a lot from these greats,” said Tsitsipas, who played doubles with Federer on the 2019 Laver Cup. “I get to share something very meaningful with them through the course of the three-day performance period. Greater than that, we get to attach and share great ideas on court, off court, be a part of something very extraordinary for our sport.”

When asked the character of those off-court experiences, Tsitsipas deferred.

“I signed an N.D.A., so I’m not allowed to share,” he said with amusing, referring to a nondisclosure agreement.

As for Ruud, who played in his first Laver Cup last yr in Boston and finished second within the U.S. Open this month, just fidgeting with the Big 4 is magical.

“It’s going to be so special, and a small dream come true,” Ruud said. “For all of the tennis fans all over the world to see the Big 4 on the team together for the primary time, and perhaps the last time. To know that I generally is a a part of that team and learn from them and be around them for that week can be incredible.”

“Roger has all the time been an inspiration to everyone,” Ruud added. “For me as well. He shows that what we thought was inconceivable is feasible. I can’t wait to see him on the Laver Cup.”

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