The Laver Cup, which took place this past weekend in Geneva, is the most entertaining exhibition format tennis has devised to date. The semi-scripted feel hits the spot, and by recasting the tour’s most famous rivals as allies, there’s an element of fan service. You get to watch 39 majors’ worth of talent shoot the shit, cheer each other on, and offer tactical advice.
Hearing Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer discuss the finer points of serve return is the stuff of many fans’ daydreams. For a participant, though, it’s possible to end up reenacting an old stress nightmare: having two tennis legends loom over your shoulders while you’re blowing a match. If it wasn’t enough to get owned by them major after major, they’re also available to break down your footwork, free of charge.
Fabio Fognini, who already has plenty of his own internal demons, endured the double sports-dad treatment in two languages:
Sulky 22-year-old talent Sascha Zverev was moping so hard that Federer let the F-bombs fly, while Rafa demanded “no one negative face.”
Rafa and Fed: Unrated Director’s Cut is funny, but it’s also an insight into their idiosyncratic, ironclad minds. If you’re wired the way they are—and as physically gifted as they are—getting down on yourself in the middle of a match is incomprehensible and unrelatable. That’s not how to achieve victory, so why would a player ever let himself do it? Maybe, past a certain point of genius, any attempt to coach just calls awkward attention to the chasm that separates them from the rest.