Cover World No 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, a Rolex Testimonee, is among the rising stars to play for Team Europe at Laver Cup 2021. (Photos: Rolex)

Supported by Rolex, the annual tennis extravaganza held in Boston, US this year features eight of the top 12 male players in the world

Held on the same weekend (24 to 26 September) as Ryder Cup 2020 is Laver Cup 2021, a tennis tournament that sees six top European players go up against six of their counterparts from the rest of the world.

The question on every tennis fan's lips is, will Team World finally topple the dominant Team Europe? 

Each team is made up of six players with three picked based on their ATP singles ranking on the Monday after Roland-Garros and the remainder are “captain’s picks”, announced by the start of the US Open. Each team is also led by a team captain, who is a legend of the sport. For this year, the captain of Team Europe is Swedish legend and Rolex Testimonee Bjorn Borg, and the captain of Team World is American tennis great John McEnroe. Both are reprising their roles for the fourth time in a row. 

While the location of the Laver Cup tournament rotates between Europe and cities from the rest of the world each year, the 2021 edition is held on the indoor hard courts at the TD Garden in Boston, US.

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Team World

As its name suggests, Team World is made up of players from all over the world except Europe. It has been improving over the last three editions, losing 15-9 in 2017, 13-8 in 2018 and 13-11 in 2019. But this year, McEnroe has Americans John Isner and Reilly Opelka; Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime; Argentinean Diego Schwartzman; and Australian Nick Kyrgios at his disposal. They are a mixed bag of raw talent and power play combined with wealth of experience on the ATP Tour.  

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov are the highest ranked players in the team, with the former 11th in the world and the latter one placing behind. The two young Canadians could just be the ingredients for Team World to finally triumph at Laver Cup. 

Team Europe

Here's the thing for Team Europe: the Big Three—Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer—are skipping the tournament this year.

In fact, Federer, a Rolex Testimonee, has been an integral cog in the Team Europe machinery. He holds the record for most points won at the Laver Cup (18), most singles matches won (6) and most singles points won (15).

But there is a silver lining: despite the omission of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer from the team, Borg still has the big guns to rely on. The next generation of big guns, if you will. World No 2 and newly-minted US Open champion Daniil Medvedev from Russia and compatriot and world No 7 Andrey Rublev will be joined by world No 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece) and world No 4 Alexander Zverev (Germany)—both of whom are Rolex Testimonees—world No 8 Matteo Berrettini (Italy) and world No 11 Casper Ruud (Norway). 

Borg seems to be confident of his team retaining the title. “We have a great team this year, with six of the top 11, I like our chances,” said the Swede, who won 11 Grand Slams during his illustrious career. “It’s never easy and we’ve been fortunate to keep our winning streak, but the pressure is on for us to defend our title. Team World is hungry.”

For the uninitiated, the annual season-ending tournament is named after Rod Laver, a player widely regarded as one of the greatest in the history of the sport. But why the Australian tennis legend? Simply because Federer, who created the tournament in the same format as Ryder Cup in 2017, wanted to pay tribute to his childhood hero. 

Featuring singles and doubles matches, the tournament sees elite players, who are otherwise fierce rivals on court, band together, cheer one another on and work as a team. 

As the tournament progresses, matches are worth more points: a match won on day one is worth a point, then two points on day two and three points on the final day. The first team to reach 13 points out of a possible 24 wins the Laver Cup. Assuming the scored is tied at 12-12, then a fifth match is to be played to determine the winner on day three. There is also a rule where no player can play singles more than twice during the tournament, and at least four of the six players must play doubles.

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Besides partnering many of the players and backroom staff participating in Laver Cup, Rolex is also a founding partner and official timekeeper of the tournament. The Swiss watchmaker sees a strong parallel between the tournament's principles of sportsmanship and teamwork and its vision of of perpetual excellence through innovation and continuous evolution.

Rolex has also been a firm supporter of tennis ever since it partnered The Championships, Wimbledon in 1978. Since then, the brand has joined hands with  prestigious tennis clubs and major tennis organisations to further the game at every level. Many of the game's top players are now Rolex Testimonees and the watchmaker has also inked partnerships with all four Grand Slam tournaments to be the official timekeeper. 

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