Friday, October 22, 2021

Laver Cup tennis event raises star power

Written by By Nichole Lee, CNN Los Angeles, United States

The star-studded matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup were watched by more than 53 million US viewers, the biggest viewership figures since 2009. European players then won convincingly, eventually racking up a 5-3 win over the Americans.

The Laver Cup, the biennial tournament combining European and American players, tries to replicate these big moments. The two-day event in Paris, which finishes on Thursday, started off with a flourish after it was announced that defending champion Rory McIlroy would play in the biennial competition.

For the world No. 2, the opportunity to play with two of his long-time friends in the powerful “big four” player grouping of McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

But it’s not just European players getting involved. Spain’s Sergio Garcia — one of the world’s biggest names in golf — will play alongside Zach Johnson in Paris. American Phil Mickelson, who has won five major championships, is set to take part for the fourth year.

American Jason Day will play against Phil Mickelson. Credit: REX/Shutterstock

Unlike the Ryder Cup, the Laver Cup has a set set line-up, with the top eight players in the respective groups being allowed to play singles matches each day.

In the first two days, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 5 Justin Rose and No. 8 Rory McIlroy played their singles matches and in the week ahead, the winners of each group’s games will advance to a semi-final match up.

Good players, bad circumstances

A “tie-breaker” between the players from the two groups determines who will represent each side in Friday’s final match-up of the competition.

But for some the Laver Cup is less about tennis and more about clashes of personalities.

“I like to think we’re on equal footing,” McIlroy told ESPN, regarding the US playing team with Mickelson and Jordan Spieth. “I think they’re good players — so far it’s been… different.”

He said that because they’re playing some of the world’s best players in a doubles set-up, it’s “good that we’re in a situation where there are only a couple of Americans in the line-up, as opposed to a lot of American players.”

‘Rico Hablo’ tournaments

One of the most unusual aspects of the event is that it’s being held in Paris. The French capital is regularly called the “Paris of the sun” and has hosted top tennis players like Rafael Nadal.

Under the chairmanship of his father Emilio Hablo, the city hosted the Halsamento Championship — Latin America’s own version of the ATP Tour’s Halle Open, which began in 1980 and is one of the few warm weather events in Europe. For a few weeks each year, the tennis world descends on Paris for the tournament.

The world No. 4, Rafael Nadal, was in attendance for the opening day of the event. Credit: GERARD JULIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Last year, 12 teams including Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Switzerland’s Roger Federer took part in the event. On the opening day of the tournament, Nadal defeated countryman Pablo Andujar 7-6, 7-6 to win the singles competition in five sets.

In total, 89 male and female players from both continents have participated in the event to date.

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