Canadian tennis stars see sport's growth potential by hosting Laver Cup
Team Europe's Captain Bjorn Borg, left, chats with Team World's captain John McEnroe, on the second day of the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 in London, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Members of Team Europe say they're looking for redemption this week in Vancouver after losing the tournament for the first time last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kin Cheung
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 21, 2023 6:51PM EDT
VANCOUVER - Hosting the Laver Cup offers a chance to grow and showcase tennis in Canada, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic say.
Auger-Aliassime is a member of Team World at the tournament, which gets underway on Friday, while Raonic is serving as an alternate in case of injuries.
“It's not a city, like Montreal or Toronto, where they're hosting a massive tennis tournament every year,” said Auger-Aliassime in a media availability ahead of the competition. “The last few years, there's kind of a buzz about Canadian tennis overall and I think it's nice to bring this kind of event here and have all these great players play in Vancouver.”
Raonic last played in Vancouver in 2012 as part of the Davis Cup at the University of British Columbia, and he said the city getting a chance to host a large international tournament shows the evolution of tennis in the country.
“I think it's a big deal,” he said. “The last time I played here was the Davis Cup at UBC in front of 2,500 people. The fact it would be considered for such an international event ... to think Vancouver is a spot that should do it says a lot about Canadian tennis and the passion for tennis across Canada.”
Raonic has struggled with injuries the past few seasons and has flirted with retirement, but says he's happy to be involved with Team World.
“Being two years away from tennis is a long time and to be back is a lot of fun,” he said.
Auger-Aliassime will take on Gael Monfils in the third match of the tournament on Friday.
“It was three years ago when I played him, he was the quickest player I had ever played against,” Auger-Aliassime said of his opponent. “His defensive skill and his court coverage was something I had never seen before.
“That's, of course, his big quality. Still today, at his age and the later stage of his career, his court coverage and just how he's able to make you play that extra ball and force you to make a mistake or force you a little bit, he's won a lot of matches doing that.”
For the 37-year-old Monfils, he said he's looking forward to playing against someone he's known for a while.
“It's going to be fun. I've known Felix for a long time, so it's going to be cool,” said Monfils.
Members of Team Europe at the Laver Cup say they're looking for redemption after losing the tournament for the first time last year.
Team Europe has won four of five iterations of the competition, losing last year in London which also marked Swiss icon Roger Federer's last competitive game.
Captain Bjorn Borg said he and his players hate losing, and last year's failure has stuck with them.
The Swedish former tennis great said he and vice-captain Thomas Enqvist are coaching like-minded players who will push to retake the tournament crown.
“We have six great players here. They're very competitive. Even me and Thomas, we hate to lose, we love to win. it's the same with these guys,” he said.
The competition kicks off on Friday with Arthur Fils taking on American Ben Shelton.
It will be Fils' first appearance at a Laver Cup, and the Frenchman was a late addition to replace world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece who pulled out due to injury.
The 19-year-old Fils, who is ranked 44th in the world, says he hopes his Laver Cup debut goes better than his Davis Cup debut, which ended in a loss to Britain's Dan Evans 3-6 6-3 6-4.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023.