The return of tennis to Boston at next September’s Laver Cup means as much to two of the greatest male players of all time as it does to the city.
Playing in Boston will allow Roger Federer and Rod Laver a chance to forge, literally, ties to a city with pro tennis roots that have withered from a 20-year drought.
Laver, who won the US Pro Championships at Longwood Cricket Club four times between 1964 and 1969, OK’d the melting of his 1967 championship trophy so it could be incorporated into the forging of the Laver Cup trophy that is awarded annually to the winners of the 3-year-old tournament between two teams of top male players from around the world.
The 38-year-old Federer, who created the Laver Cup to honor its 81-year-old namesake, has never played tennis in Boston.
In fact, he’s never set foot in Boston.
“He’ll be excited,” said Federer’s longtime agent, Tony Godsick. “He knows the history, not just of tennis but sports in general. He’ll be excited to come here and talk about that. It was an easy decision in the end.”
Godsick was in town with Laver Cup CEO Steve Zacks to begin working on details for tournament, which will be held Sept. 25-27, at TD Garden. Godsick and Zacks spent Monday morning at Harvard Business School, where students in Anita Elberse’s class grilled the two in a case study about the event.
There have been just three host cities of the Laver Cup: Prague two years ago, Chicago last year, and Geneva this year.
“Boston hasn’t had tennis, and that checked a very important box for us,” said Godsick. “Huge market, important box for us. Easy to get to from a transportation standpoint, important box for us.
“Then they knew what we were about already because we had already entertained going here in 2018, so they wanted the event. And the Boston Garden — as Roger always said, we have to go to these epic arenas.”
Helping arrange Boston’s successful bid, said Zacks, were a host of TD Garden executives, including president Amy Latimer and vice president of events Eric Staufer, plus Jim Delaney of the Greater Boston Sports Partnership and Stephanie Pappas of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Godsick, who also represents tennis pros Coco Gauff and Alexander Zverev, credits Federer with the genesis of the idea.
“It was five years ago, maybe to the day, we were driving back from an event in China and Roger said to me, ‘You know, I make more money in a one-night exhibition than Rod made in his entire career,’ ” said Godsick. “He said, ‘We should do something with Rod.’ Not that he needed money, but to honor Rod.”
Godsick and his partners at the Team8 agency began sketching out the tournament framework. At first, they thought it would be a good idea to rotate the tournament around to the four Grand Slam sites. They settled on a Ryder Cup-like three-day format featuring singles and doubles matches between six-member teams from Europe and the rest of the world.
The “fire and ice” duo of John McEnroe as coach of Team World and Bjorn Borg as coach of Team Europe was set, as was the distinctive court, which is painted black.
They decided to “build” the event themselves in each site each year, with a rotating Europe/non-Europe host city.
Players will arrive by Tuesday, with a public event Wednesday aimed at those who can’t come to the competition itself, and a practice session Thursday.
“We want to create different opportunities for the fans who don’t have tickets to the event,” said Zacks. “I’m hoping that between the sports history and the American history and so forth, we’ll find some great ways to feature Boston and take on the character.”
The Longwood-tinged Laver Cup trophy (“Already there’s a connection to the city,” said Zacks) has a permanent home at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., which hosts an annual grass tournament each July right after Wimbledon.
In addition to raising awareness for the Hall of Fame, Godsick and Zacks hope to draw a Laver Cup audience from those who attend the July event.
The event has been successful in terms of attendance and buzz, leading to questions about whether a similar event can be designed for women’s tennis — perhaps a King Cup or a Navratilova Cup.
“If someone wants to create the women’s equivalent of the Laver Cup, we would be excited about it, we would help if we can,” said Godsick, who is married to women’s tennis star Mary Joe Fernandez. “If no one does in the future, when we get some oxygen and can breathe, we actually might do it ourselves. We’ll see.”
Tickets should go on sale around March (go to lavercup.com for ticket and event sponsorship information), with Federer penciled in for his Boston debut early next year to help with publicity.
Perhaps Federer will use the opportunity to reestablish contact with one of the area’s highest-profile couples, Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen.
Godsick said Bundchen, whom he knows from earlier in their respective careers, “plays tennis and she likes it.” And Federer met Brady and Bundchen at the Met Gala in New York.
“We have some connections,” said Godsick. “Hopefully we can get them involved somehow.”