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Laver Cup 2021: Why are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic not playing event?

Daily Express logo Daily Express 23/09/2021 Daniel Moxon
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Tennis' so-called 'big three' in Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will all be absent from this weekend's Laver Cup as the competition makes its return. The sport's answer to the Ryder Cup takes place at the same time as the golfing event, and will feature a European team going up against players from the rest of the world.

The European side will be without their three biggest names, though, with world number one Djokovic absent as well as fellow 20-time Grand Slam winners Federer and Nadal.

In their absence, US Open champion Daniil Medvedev will lead the European charge, alongside the likes of Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev, Greek world number three Stefanos Tsitsipas, Norwegian ace Casper Ruud, Matteo Berrettini of Italy and Russian Andrey Rublev.

The team representing the rest of the world is yet to taste overall victory in this tournament in three previous attempts.

Among those hoping to change that are Americans John Isner and Reilly Opelka, controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios, Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, Canadian Denis Shapovalov and youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will all be absent from the 2021 Laver Cup © GETTY Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will all be absent from the 2021 Laver Cup

But why are Europe's big three all absent?

Roger Federer

The Swiss' absence from this event and every other for a while has been expected.

Federer announced last month he would be out of action for "many months" after undergoing a third surgery on his knee since the start of 2020.

The 40-year-old broke his silence this week, informing fans that his recovery and physiotherapy were going "really well".

But Federer, a lover of this tournament, confirmed he would not be able to attend.

"Look, I'm disappointed," he said.

"I'm going to miss the guys, I'm going to miss the team, the spirit, the fans, the weekend, just everything that goes with it - cheering on my fellow players.

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Roger Federer is recovering from knee surgery © GETTY Roger Federer is recovering from knee surgery

"I'm going to miss it because I had a wonderful time in Geneva, Prague and Chicago, but have already been in touch with Thomas Enqvist, the coach of Team Europe and I will also definitely call Bjorn [Borg] and John [McEnroe] and make sure everything is okay.

"Obviously I'll be in touch with the team and I'll be watching a lot of the matches.

"It's going to be long tennis days in front of the TV, so I'm really excited that it's Laver Cup time again."

Rafael Nadal

August also saw Nadal bring the curtain down on his 2021 season because of an injury setback.

The King of Clay suffered a foot injury at the French Open - his favourite event - which forced him to miss Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics.

He later managed to get through two games at the ATP 500 in Washington, but ultimately decided it was better to properly rest his foot and give it time to heal.

Rafael Nadal is nursing a foot injury and called a premature end to his 2021 season © GETTY Rafael Nadal is nursing a foot injury and called a premature end to his 2021 season

Despite his injury woes, the 35-year-old has no plans to hang up his racket just yet.

"The clock is ticking, every year it's getting tougher," Nadal admitted this month.

"But I am still excited and I will keep fighting to achieve great things again."

Novak Djokovic

While Federer and Nadal's absences are explained by injury, Djokovic is match fit having narrowly missed out on US Open glory earlier this month.

The Serbian won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and just needed one more success in New York to emulate the Calendar Slam last achieved by Rod Laver - the man after whom this tournament is named - in 1969.

Novak Djokovic is recharging his batteries after a long year which yielded three Grand Slam trophies © GETTY Novak Djokovic is recharging his batteries after a long year which yielded three Grand Slam trophies

But he lost to fellow European Medvedev in straight sets, falling agonisingly at the final hurdle.

Djokovic has chosen to spend some time away from the court after his exploits over the course of the season, including representing his country at the Olympic Games.

He announced he would not be taking part in the Laver Cup last month, at least giving captain Bjorn Borg plenty of notice.

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