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Federer confident of Laver Cup quality despite late withdrawal of stars

Roger Federer Roger Federer - The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — The Laver Cup may lack the star power of its previous iterations with no Grand Slam or world champions taking the court at Rogers Arena, but tournament co-founder Roger Federer is convinced there will be quality tennis on display in Vancouver.

Last year's event featured Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal all representing Team Europe.

"It was always going to be hard, especially with my retirement," Federer said about having the other three players compete in this year's tournament. "Rafa being injured, Novak taking a break, I understood that, obviously, completely. Murray maybe not coming back again, it's understandable. Look it is what it is, I still think it's going to be a great weekend."

This year's team has been hampered by withdrawals, with world No. 4 Holger Rune and world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipa withdrawing due to surgery or injury.

"The greatest players are still here," said Federer. "Obviously everybody was asked to play and we want all the best to play, but it wasn't possible with schedules and all that stuff. I was a tough guy as well when it came to scheduling. I was very rigorous about which tournaments I could play."

Team World consists of Americans Tommy Paul, Ben Shelton, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, along with Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, and has five players ranked in the top 20 in the world.

By comparison, Team Europe has three — Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz.

"I still think the tennis is going to be exceptional. We're still talking absolute top level. It's an absolute pity that players had to pull out, but I think the ones coming in are exciting," said Federer.

The three-day event, which runs Friday to Sunday, is in its sixth year. Team World will be attempting to defend its title for the first time with Europe winning four of the five previous tournaments.

The tournament switches locations every year, with an aim of showcasing top tennis around the world.

But Federer admits that changing locales might come with drawbacks.

"It's obviously easier (to grow the tournament) if it was in Vancouver every single year. By jumping, it becomes a little more tricky and I guess the question begs itself, 'one day is it easier to be three years in Vancouver and then three years in another place or destination?'

"I don't know, because it would be easier to build up something more concrete over an amount of time, but I think the Laver Cup has done wonderful."

But, the former 20 Grand Slam titles-winner and world No. 1, said the event can have a lasting affect on young or aspiring tennis players.

"There's a weight this event can carry," Federer said. "Through events like these, you create memories as well for children and parents."

Watching these matches can inspire children to pick up a tennis racket or become more involved in the sport, he added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.