I am not a psychic. I’m a tennis fan. But I have a prediction: I believe this weekend’s Laver Cup will be one of the most watched sporting events ever. The Laver Cup pits six of the top men’s tennis players from any part of Europe against six of the top men’s tennis players from the rest of the world, in a Ryder Cup-like tournament. It’s Team Europe versus Team World.
No, it’s not the Super Bowl. It’s not the NBA championship. It’s not the Olympics. But it is the last opportunity you will have to see three of the greatest athletes who ever walked this Earth: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic play together, on Team Europe.
It is a historic moment that any sports fan needs to watch. These three athletes have dominated a sport in such a way that it is hard to imagine Grand Slam tennis without them.
Back in 2003, I referred to Pete Sampras as the best tennis player that ever lived. Which he was. At that time, I never thought we’d see another like him. Let alone three. (Remember, I’m just talking men here. Don’t even get me started on Serena and her 23 Grand Slam titles. Serena is a whole other story. Can you say GOAT, GOAT, GOAT?)
But since Federer won his first Wimbledon final in 2003, the Big Three — as they are known — have cumulatively won 63 Grand Slam titles. Only 14 Grand Slams in that timeframe have been won by men not named Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. (Ironically, that’s the same number of Grand Slams that Pete Sampras won, before the Big Three came on the scene and obliterated his reign as the GOAT.)
After this weekend, we may still see Rafa. And we may still see Novak going for more Grand Slams. But the one that started it all? The first of the Big Three — Roger Federer? We will never have the chance to see him play another Grand Slam again. This weekend is his good-bye. What better way for him to go out than alongside his two greatest rivals?
So thank you, Roger, thank you, Rafa, thank you, Novak. You are the GOATs. Plural. People can argue back and forth why any one of you is the greatest of all time. And they’d all be right. We are all blessed to have watched all of you play against each other. Sure, without all three of you in the mix, maybe one of you alone would hold all 63 Grand Slam titles. But it would’ve been utterly boring. And I doubt it would’ve happened. Your three-way rivalry made each of you a better player.
I, personally, am an avid Rafael Nadal fan. Though I have rooted against Novak and Roger when they were playing Rafa, I have always respected them all. How can you not? And, this weekend, I will be rooting for all three of them. My prediction and hope is that the whole world will be watching with me.
Sorry Team World captain John McEnroe. Sorry Team World teammate, Frances Tiafoe. Love ya both. But this weekend? I’m all Team Europe!
Jane Krosby Braden is a writer and former sports editor. Her essays have also been heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition. She works in the corporate sponsorship department at VPM NPR & PBS in Richmond, Va.