Laver Cup: How legendary Roger Federer pays it forward to help grow tennis

The retired Federer will be honoured Friday night at Rogers Arena as the Laver Cup commences its sixth edition

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Roger Federer has reason to believe that tennis is in a good and growing place.

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The 42-year-old retired legend can easily point to a number of contributing factors which have led to the emergence of young players, who continue to make dramatic and immediate impacts on the Grand Slam circuit.

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From early involvement to improved training and teaching techniques, to the Laver Cup paying homage to indisputable Australian ace Rod Laver, it has allowed Federer self-satisfaction in roles he has played to further the game’s reach.

From 20 Grand Slam singles titles to being co-founder of the Laver Cup, which commences its sixth edition Friday at Rogers Arena, he has helped pay it forward. After all, who didn’t want to pick up a racket after watching Federer’s dominance? And who wouldn’t want to witness some of today’s greats strut their stuff in the Laver Cup?

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“Even if we go back further than the young guys we see on tour, I just think everybody is getting more serious earlier,” Federer said Tuesday at Rogers Arena. “When I look back at how I played at 12 years old, and how much better those who are 12 are today, they just put so many more hours into it.

“We’ll see different types of players because of it. They would have played many more matches and would have spent many more hours on the court and the game is coached differently today. It’s more based on movements. And if we can add more fitness and co-ordination exercises when they’re young, it’s helpful because post 14 it’s very difficult to improve that.”

You don’t have to look far for examples. From Carlos Alcaraz to Jannik Skinner and Holger Rune, the catlike quickness and precision to play at the baseline or the net has taken tennis to another level.

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“It’s become a game of movement,” added Federer. “I’m happy that the global reach is still there. Even after my departure, I think tennis is still continuing. Rafa (Rafael Nadal) is injured, but we have great stories with Novak (Djokovic) and Alcaraz and I think the game is also very strong on the women’s side with Coco (Gauff) winning the U.S. Open.”

Roger Federer Vancouver
Roger Federer played his final tennis match last September at the 2022 Laver Cup in London. Photo by Kin Cheung /AP

The results have drawn eyeballs and the Laver Cup has drawn plaudits for its purpose.

There’s paying homage and bringing the event to Vancouver for the first time, but there’s also a sense of purpose. Federer will conduct kids’ clinics during his first visit here and also connect with Coldplay, who perform at B.C. Place on Friday and Saturday and are huge tennis fans and friends of Federer.

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He said the band hopes to take in some tennis.

“For me, it’s exceeded expectations,” Federer said of the Laver Cup. “I don’t know what they were, but they were not like this, to be honest. To take it to different places has been great and it’s a little bit nostalgic for me to retire at the The O2 Arena in London a year ago where I did play a lot of my matches as well. 

“Just seeing the camaraderie that people from different countries have coming together on the different teams — like me and Rafa or me and Novak — has been wonderful. And seeing the fun and joy that (Laver Cup captains) Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe brought and how much they’re enjoying their roles. 

“Every time I speak to Rod Laver, it’s how thankful and grateful he is to me that we created the Cup. It was an idea to give back to the older generation. Let them know they have not been forgotten and that they paved the way for us.”

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Former ATP Player Roger Federer interviews ahead of the Laver Cup at Rogers Arena on September 19, 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Former ATP Player Roger Federer interviews ahead of the Laver Cup at Rogers Arena on September 19, 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo by Clive Brunskill /Getty Images for Laver Cup

This Laver Cup will be without world No. 4 Rune and world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who have withdrawn due to surgery or injury. Arthur Fils is listed as an alternate for Team Europe.

“The greatest players who could still play are here, but it’s not always possible with schedules and stuff,” reasoned Federer. “I was a tough guy when it came to scheduling. I was very rigorous about which tournaments I could play and which I could not.

“The tennis is going to still be exceptional and they’re going to be pumped up totally in a venue like this. You’re going to feel the energy. The Laver Cup also gives back to the community. It creates memories for children and parents and to look back on how it inspired somebody to pick up a racket to train harder or even meet a player. That can be a catalyst. 

“These events are not to be underestimated. Maybe one day it will be three years in a row in Vancouver and three years to another. It’s easier to build something up offer time. That way the Laver Cup leaves the game and the city better off.”

bkuzma@postmedia.com

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