Laver Cup: Novel tournament proves a smash with tennis fans as it's 'not like regular Grand Slams'

Prague: It takes the eye a while to get used to the black court with white lines, surrounded by sponsor logos in white and gold, but when it does, the picture is rather impressive.

The court is just one special feature of the new Laver Cup pitting Team Europe against Team World in a format similar to the golf Ryder Cup.

"I think it's very elegant," enthused Agnieszka Widmann, a blonde Polish woman living in Prague, who has come to watch the competition.

 Laver Cup: Novel tournament proves a smash with tennis fans as its not like regular Grand Slams

Roger Federer and Rafael Nada watch the Laver Cup tennis match between Team Europe's Dominic Thiem and Team World's John Isner in Prague. AP

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominik Thiem and Tomas Berdych have come to represent Europe against the world's Sam Querrey, John Isner, Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe.

"It's nice, entertaining, it's something new, not like regular grand slams and ATP tournaments," Widmann told AFP.

"Lovely, beautiful, it's nicely set, a fantastic idea," added former Czech tennis star Bohdan Ulihrach.

And costly, too — while Widmann sips champagne rose at €12 ($14) a glass, a three-day ticket to Prague's sold-out O2 Arena cost up to $2,200, which is twice the average monthly wage in the host country.

The cheapest day ticket in the rafters cost €40.

"My initial thought was that maybe we could have a celebration of tennis on the weekend," says Federer, the mastermind behind the project.

The weekend party calls for a comparison with the Davis Cup, but this is something the players stubbornly reject.

"I really don't like the comparison between the two because they're very different," Federer said.

"This one's condensed to three very intense days and then that's it, whereas the Davis Cup sort of rolls through the year, four times," he added.

100 percent

Fans seem split on the issue.

"The Davis Cup is far more prestigious because the players try much harder playing for their country," said Frantisek Sekac, a fan from the western Czech town of Touzim.

Widmann said she preferred the Laver Cup: "The way I understand the fixtures, they are more surprising, in the Davis Cup you can predict who's going to play who."

With three singles and one doubles rubber played at the Laver Cup every day, the players earn a point for each win on Friday, two on Saturday and three on Sunday.

If a rubber is tied 1-1, a 10-point super tie-break is played instead of the third set.

The coaches — legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe — pick the line-ups for each day without knowing who will play who, except for one day when the home coach can take a look at the rival's line-up and adjust his own accordingly.

"We are playing to win," Federer said as the tournament seeks recognition ahead of its second edition scheduled to take place in the United States in 2018.

"Your level drops if you're just having hit and giggles, and it's more fun to play full and see if you can get something out of yourself."

'Fun to watch'

Tipped as the clear winner, his Team Europe comprising five of the world's top seven players took the first day's singles by storm, before allowing their rivals to grab a point from the doubles rubber.

Exhibition crept in in that game, with Team World's Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios offering a few extraordinary hits.

The Team World bench meanwhile celebrated every decent moment play-acting a volleyball exchange, pretending to shoot teammates with a bow and an arrow, playing 'the ground is lava' or starting a Mexican wave.

"They're much younger than us," Nadal smiled at a press conference, waving aside any idea of Team Europe following suit.

The audience were more appreciative.

"This makes it look very relaxed, you can see the players are having fun just like the audience," Prague fan Alexandr Schreier said.

"All in all, it's fun to watch."

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Updated Date: Sep 23, 2017 22:01:26 IST

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