It’s amusingly debatable whether Chicago is a Bears, Cubs or Bulls town. I’m sure fans of the Blackhawks and White Sox would be glad to weigh in with their opinions as well.
The immutable truth is that Chicago is a great sports city.
Laver Cup organizers certainly felt that way when choosing the Windy City as host site for its second edition, pitting several of the best tennis players from Europe and the rest of the world against each other in a spirited competition featuring singles and doubles matches.
Team Europe consisted of captain Bjorn Borg, vice captain Thomas Enqvist, and players Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin, Kyle Edmund plus alternate Jeremy Chardy. Team World included captain John McEnroe, vice captain Patrick McEnroe, and players Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios, Frances Tiafoe, Diego Schwartzman plus alternate Nicolas Jarry.
In my dual role as sports editor and tennis fanatic, I had the privilege of covering this year’s Laver Cup.
Playing matches at the United Center all weekend before capacity crowds, Team Europe edged Team World 13-8 in a thrilling series of matches that often went the distance with decisive 10-point tiebreakers after players split the opening two sets.
Federer and Zverev paved the way for Team Europe with a pair of singles wins each.
After his pulsating 6-7, 7-6, 10-7 victory over the 6-foot-10 Isner, Federer addressed the UC crowd by saying, “Oh man, what a match, what a weekend. Thank you, Chicago.”
Federer, who has won 20 Grand Slams, played a primary role in making the Laver Cup possible. The Swiss great talked about the Laver Cup as an opportunity to celebrate tennis and pay homage to the game’s legends (notably Rod Laver), while also allowing current players a chance to interact in a team format and entertain fans.
As host city, Chicago served its role as impeccably as a Federer ace on match point.
“It’s an absolute privilege to play here where Michael Jordan had so much success,” Federer said. “He was one of my biggest heroes and inspirations so to be in the city where he has left such a big mark means a lot to me.
“We’re so happy to have the Laver Cup here in Chicago. What a great sports city and great fans. We made the perfect choice.”
The numbers reflect Federer’s praise of Chicago. A total of 93,854 tennis fans attended the second edition of the Laver Cup, which was broadcast in more than 200 countries.
Djokovic, owner of 14 Grand Slams, including titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon over the summer, described his first Laver Cup experience as a “perfect tennis dream.”
In addition to playing matches at the United Center or practicing in the adjacent Laver Cup “Fan Zone” public court, the tennis players enjoyed a taste of Chicago with events like their public appearance at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and an Opening Night Gala at Navy Pier.
Players greeted fans, signed autographs and took photos whenever possible. Djokovic even spent a few moments taking pictures with Fenwick tennis players.
Geneva, Switzerland is next year’s Laver Cup venue.
Until that gathering, and fresh off a memorable weekend of competition and camaraderie, the world’s greatest tennis players depart Chicago knowing it’s their kind of town.