As Laver Cup CEO Steve Zacks stood courtside Monday at TD Garden, arena workers banged their tools and put the finishing touches on a black tennis court laid over an area typically occupied by a parquet floor or a sheet of ice.
Getting his first glimpse at the site of the fourth edition of the Laver Cup, Zacks noted how this year’s event was a long time coming. Preparations to hold the event in Boston started more than four years ago, and then the tournament was delayed by a year because of the pandemic.
But the wait is finally over, and some of the world’s top men’s players will be in Boston this weekend to compete in tennis’s version of the Ryder Cup.
“We’ve been talking with TD Garden and Boston since before we ran the first Laver Cup in 2017,” said Zacks. “It’s been a really long quest to get here, and we’re so looking forward to it. It’s great to be here and seeing it come into play.”
The Laver Cup, named after Australian tennis great Rod Laver, pits six top European players against six from the rest of the world in a three-day tournament. Team Europe has won each of the first three editions in Prague, Chicago, and Geneva.
However, the 2021 tournament is the first without Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal, who will all miss the event for various reasons. There is still plenty of firepower though.
Team Europe is headlined by US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, along with Top 10 players Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, and Casper Ruud.
Bjorn Borg is the captain of Team Europe.
“This year’s Laver Cup is going to be very different, and I know people have been talking about that, but I think it’s fantastic,” said Zacks. “We have the US Open champion, the Olympic gold-medal winner [Tsitsipas]. The European team is stacked, with every player in the Top 10.”
Team World, captained by John McEnroe, is led by Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov and a pair of Americans, Reilly Opelka and John Isner. Diego Schwartzman and the fiery Nick Kyrgios round out the roster.
Zacks is expecting a competitive tournament between an established European team and a World side with up-and-coming players like Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov.
“I think it’s one that is unpredictable as ever, and that’s what makes it really exciting,” said Zacks.
The Laver Cup rotates between a European city and a rest-of-the-world city from year to year. Zacks called Boston a premier destination because of its sports history and championship pedigree.
He said the players relish the opportunity to play in a venue with so much history, and he expects the fans to bring an excitement level to the tournament. Last year’s event was sold out before the pandemic hit, and the same is expected this weekend.
The tournament begins Friday with four matches — three singles and one doubles — followed by the same format Saturday. The final singles match will be Sunday.
The winning team must reach 13 points; matches are worth 1 point on Friday, 2 points on Saturday, and 3 points on Sunday.
The team format creates anticipation and excitement throughout the weekend, culminating with a trophy celebration Sunday.
“It’s a rare time when the players can be part of something with the team,” said Zacks. “Normally, they are out there by themselves, and in this case, they can build relationships with players and captains. It’s really unique and the fans get to see them in a whole new way.”