John McEnroe (left) leans in and talks to Denis Shapovalov

Photo : AP

There was a time when the period after the US Open was devoid of top-level competition in the world of men’s tennis.

Thankfully, there is the Laver Cup.

Since 2017, most of the world’s best have been getting together for a team competition to decide if Europe really is better than the rest of the planet at tennis, which the rankings and recent results seem to suggest.

This year, the stars are descending on Boston and the TD Garden, home of the Bruins and Celtics, from Sep. 24-26 to duke it out for continental supremacy.

What is Laver Cup?

Prior to the invention of the Laver Cup, Davis Cup was the only major team competition in the world of men’s tennis.

There was also Hopman Cup, but it never got the attention it deserved.

Laver Cup was the first of a number of team competitions added to the schedule in a move to increase the amount of occasions for the world’s best to team up and represent where they are from.

However, the Laver Cup stands out from the other two major team competitions, the ATP Cup and re-organized Davis Cup, due to its organizational and scoring systems.

Laver Cup is a team competition that pits the best players from Europe against the best players from the rest of the world.

It is like the President’s Cup in golf, or when the NHL All-Star game used to be players from North America against the rest of the world.

The tournament is played over three days with a combination of singles and double matches. Like in hockey, each match is worth points and the first team to reach 13 points wins.

Each day, matches get more valuable. A match on day one is worth one point, two on day two and three on day three.

The event is named after the great Rod Laver, who is still, thanks to Daniil Medvedev, the only man in the Open Era to win the calendar-year Grand Slam.

The teams are also captained by legends. Bjorn Borg is in charge of Team Europe, while his old frenemy John McEnroe leads Team World.

Why Laver Cup is Great

With seven players per team, the event regularly attracts the players atop the rankings, meaning every match pits the world’s best against each other. Every year, Team Europe has been composed of majority Top 10 players.

It has also been an opportunity for some great doubles matches. Most famously in the inaugural 2017 event, tennis fans were treated to a moment they had been waiting over a decade for: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal teaming up in doubles. A year later, Federer paired with Novak Djokovic.

Through three editions, Team Europe has generally dominated the competition, winning all three. However, with each passing year, Team World has gotten closer.

In 2019, the last time the event was played, it all came down to a third set super tiebreak between Alexander Zverev and Milos Raonic, with the German ultimately emerging victorious.

It may be an exhibition event, but Laver Cup perfectly strikes the balance between fun and intense. The players take it seriously and the level of tennis is always high, but there is still plenty of room for fun and viral moments.

Nick Kyrgios is a mainstay after all.

Who is playing

For the first time, the Big Three will be absent from the Laver Cup. Instead, the future will be in the spotlight at this event as both teams are led by their younger stars. Nine of the twelve players committed so far, including all of Team Europe, are age 25 or under.

That does not mean the event lacks star power though.

Once again, Team Europe looks formidable heading into the 2021 edition of the tournament, boasting an all-Top 10 team, as well as four of the world’s Top 5.

Team World is ready to put up a fight, though, as they will be sending five of their top seven players, led by a pair of Canadians.

As the top two non-European players in the rankings, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapavalov will look to guide Team World to their first victory in the competition.

Shapovalov will be making his third appearance at the event, playing a singles match in both 2017 and 2019 and doubles in 2019 as well.

Auger-Aliassime, currently the highest-ranked non-European player in the world after his run to the US Open semi-finals, will be making his debut.