Opinion: Where are the women at the Laver Cup?


Credit: Kally Proctor

The official jackets for the Laver Cup teams. The Laver Cup consists of two teams: Team Europe and Team World, with a total of seven players per team. Ever since the tournament began in 2017, players, captains and vice captains have always been solely male.

Kally Proctor

Fourteen of the top professional tennis players recently descended on Boston when TD Garden hosted the 2021 Laver Cup. That is, 14 of the top male tennis players. Where were the women?

This year’s lineup included prominent players such as the 2021 US Open champion and current World No. 2, Daniil Medvedev, current World No. 3, Stefanos Tsitsipas and current World No. 4, Alexander Zverev. The international tournament, which ran from Sep. 24 to Sep. 26, has previously featured other celebrated players such as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. But where were the women?

Let’s back up a bit. The Laver Cup is a tournament formatted with two teams (Team Europe and Team World), in which each team has a total of seven players. This includes six main players, as well as an alternate. The teams each have a captain and a vice captain. The event is relatively new, with the inaugural edition of the tournament held in 2017. To date, the teams have been exclusively male, though there is no explicit rule saying that women can’t join.

The cup was originally former World No. 1 Roger Federer’s idea. Named after tennis legend Rod Laver, the tournament is a tribute to some of the greatest tennis legends of our time, with Team Europe and Team World led by Björn Borg and John McEnroe, respectively. But again, where were the women?

Simply put, there weren’t any. No legends like Billie Jean King. No top-ranked players like 19-year-old US Open Champion Emma Raducanu. No Williams sisters. No women.

Women like Billie Jean King fought tirelessly for women’s rights and gender equality in sports, particularly in tennis, establishing the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973. She battled to promote women in sports, increase women’s opportunities in tennis and bring men’s and women’s tennis into the same realm of play. However, women still seem to be an afterthought.

When Federer first organized this tournament, it was as an experiment, and he was unsure whether the cup would work out. As such, the tournament was originally organized solely in collaboration with the men’s tennis league (the “Association of Tennis Professionals,” or ATP). However, the cup took off as hoped. This year’s tournament marks the fifth edition, yet women still aren’t part of the tournament.

“Down the road, I’m totally open to anything,” Federer said in a 2018 interview. “I’ve heard already from women players. They would love to do it as well.”

Despite this message from Federer, which came three years ago now, women are still not part of the Laver Cup. In fact, the only thing we know for sure about the 2022 Laver Cup is that it will be held in London. What’s the hold up? Where’s the urgency? The lack of action when it comes to the women’s participation in the Laver Cup raises the question: will the Laver Cup turn into yet another men’s cup in an already imbalanced calendar? And if women are going to join the cup, how long will we have to wait for this change to occur?

How much longer will we have to ask “where are the women?”