Most hard court tennis surfaces used for professional tennis are moving towards using blue as their color while some are green but the Laver Cup is very different in this regard. This Roger Federer-organized annual event has courts which are black in color and one of the only competitions which has gone down this path.
What is the Laver Cup?
The Laver Cup is a team-based men’s tennis tournament which sees the Team Europe pitted against Team World. Team Europe consists of players from the continent of Europe while Team Europe is from the rest of the world.
It’s based on the concept of golf’s Ryder Cup where Europe and USA go head to head in a golfing tournament and has Roger Federer on the organizing committee as well.
The competition is promoted by TEAM8, which is Federer’s management firm, a Brazilian businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann who has also played Davis Cup in the past, and Tennis Australia. It was named after Rod Laver, a former Aussie tennis player often called the best in the world.
Former legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe have been the captains of the teams and players like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios and John Isner have all participated in the tournament so far.
The tournament is played over three days and over the years has been played at different venues with the intention of taking it to the world. The tournament was held in Prague in its opening edition and since then it has been hosted by Chicago, Geneva and was going to be hosted by Boston in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic ended those plans.
Why are the Laver Cup Courts Black?
The Laver Cup competition is played on black-colored indoor hard-court surfaces to give the tennis viewers a unique and excellent experience, something which isn’t available on the ATP tour otherwise.
The tournament was launched with Federer and Tomas Berdych involved in a few tennis rallies on a boat in the Vltava River in the Czech Republic, with fans getting to the black-colored surface for the first time.
Tournament director Steve Zacks spoke to the media before the start of the first edition of Laver Cup in 2017 and he explained the rationale behind the decision:
“We worked very hard to deliver the blackest court that’s ever been delivered. We made very special paint and we tested it three times under light. It’s going to present beautifully.”
The yellow-green ball on the back of a black background would make it easier to follow for the spectators, both, at home watching on TV and at the stadium.
The decision was taken after Federer looked at the black courts before the 2017 edition, liked what he saw and told Zacks the tournament will need to be played on the same colored-courts again. The Laver Cup has time and again said, the courts are the blackest they can be.
What this would also do from a branding perspective is bring an instant recall for fans and the association of black with Laver Cup, one of its most unique factors other than the format itself.
Federer, according to an article in the New York Times, had something similar to say as well. He said:
“The black court is the centerpiece of a really cool, contemporary look over all that is such a big part of how people identify with the Laver Cup.”
It’s official. #LaverCup will be played on a black tennis court. pic.twitter.com/QTJNEKQXev
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) September 19, 2017
According to Zacks, it took the organizers needed two years of research, three tests of the surface for color and six for pace of the court before they arrived at the right formula. Sand was added to reduce the speed of the courts to ensure there were greater rallies but had to be careful not to add too much so as to interfere with the black colour.
With Team Europe represented by blue and Team World represented by red, the contrast between these three colors adds to the glitz as well.
The black color used by the Laver Cup competition is called the Laver Cup Black.
Interestingly, even the tournament sponsor Rolex has always been on board with the decision. Rolex, which is a luxury watch-maker, might have had a say in the decision-making as well, with its white logo looking resplendent on the back of the black.
Other Tennis Tournaments Played on Black Courts
The New York Open tennis tournament which came into being in 2018, replacing the Memphis Open in the process, is another indoor hard court event on the ATP calendar. And like Laver Cup, it has avoided the temptation to continue the tradition of choosing blue or green-colored courts.
The organizers call it the “Home of The Black Court” but visually, it is more grey than black. In an interview with the New York Times, the competition is said to be inspired by Laver Cup’s call to play on a black-colored court and went for something similar to do something different than other ATP and WTA competitions.
The tournament director Josh Ripple said of the decision:
“We wanted to do something different. It’s a new event, in a new place and nobody really knows what to expect. We might as well go for it on Day 1.”
Basically, not too much different from the reason Laver Cup provided to effect a change in the way things are done usually, shake them up a bit.
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The Madrid Masters Decision Which Went Awry
Much like most hard courts are green or blue in color, clay courts are typically found in a shade of red or orange. The French Open courts, for instance, have a distinctive red color, as have most of the other clay court competitions around the world at both, the ATP and WTA level.
Gets a bit boring at times now, doesn’t it?
There was an attempt made by the Madrid Open organizers to zing it up a bit by introducing blue clay for the first time in the history of clay court tennis. Things did not turn out that well for them though.
Many of the top players including clay-court GOAT, Rafael Nadal, protested at the decision to play the 2012 Madrid Open on blue clay, as did Novak Djokovic with both players threatening to boycott the tournament if it wasn’t reverted back to red.
A tournament is nothing without its players, especially if they are as big-ticket names as Nadal and Djokovic and they had no option but to bring the red clay back in 2013.