Roger Federer, the world’s top-ranked tennis player, was in Chicago on Monday for the first time to help kick off the countdown to September’s Laver Cup.
Organizers spent Monday morning setting up a small tennis court next to Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate sculpture. Federer, who had arrived in Chicago around noon, volleyed with world No. 20 Nick Kyrgios of Australia on the court around 2 p.m.
“Very excited to be here in Chicago for the very first time,” Federer said at the Bean. “Nice and cold. But it’s all good. That’s what we came for and (to) order a deep dish pizza so we’re warm on the inside.”
The 36-year-old Swiss native explained how he’s never had occasion to grace the city before.
“I don’t want to say you always go to the same places (on tour), but when there’s not a tournament in town, it’s hard to go to sometimes unless you plan a vacation,” Federer said. “And usually when I come to America … I go to New York, I go to Indian Wells (Calif.), I go to Miami, I go to Cincinnati.
“And the next thing you know … you haven’t been in a few places you’ve actually wanted to go to. And Chicago’s definitely one of the places I’ve wanted to come to, and then let alone play as well, and so now this year I’ll get both, which I’m very excited.”
To promote the Laver Cup, Federer was joined by Kyrgios, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, American great John McEnroe and Rod Laver, the tournament’s namesake and Australian legend.
Event presenter and NBC Sports journalist Mike Tirico predicted it would be “dangerous” for Federer to hand over the microphone to McEnroe, and tennis’ bad boy emeritus didn’t disappoint.
“First of all, it’s great to be in this tremendous city of Chicago — almost as great as New York,” he said to groans. “I had to say that. I’m sorry. C’mon, you know I spent my whole life in New York.”
The Laver Cup, an all-star tennis tournament similar to golf’s Ryder Cup, will take place Sept. 21-23 at the United Center. For the second year, McEnroe will serve as captain of Team World and Team Europe’s captain will be Bjorn Borg.