"The Laver Cup turns rivals into teammates."
Why are Roger Federer and Credit Suisse such a perfect match? And what exactly is the Laver Cup all about, this new tennis event that was co-founded by Roger and his manager Tony Godsick and that is sponsored by Credit Suisse? Get the answers from Tony Godsick himself.
What qualities does a potential sponsor need to display in order for you to consider him a good fit for Roger?
Tony Godsick: The most important thing is there has to be an authentic fit between Roger and that brand or product. There are no brands or products that he is associated with where you scratch your head and say: "I don't quite understand the relationship." He has to use the product, believe in the product or need to use the product. Otherwise he's not going to do it. His relationship with Credit Suisse is an organic one. He actually was a partner of Credit Suisse at four weeks old. Roger earns money all around the world, he clearly needs a trusted and global bank to be associated with. Credit Suisse is one of the best banks in the world. It was obvious that there was a connection there.
How many requests do you get per year? And how many sponsorship engagements can an active athlete take on?
As an active athlete Roger can't take on more. One of the things we like with his brands is that he's associated with them for the long term. Many agents say all the time: "Oh, I turn down so many deals." Half the time I think they just say that. I can honestly tell you that we turn down at least two big deals a month. Roger loves the group that he's with now and at this stage, I always say to people: "You can't jump on the Federer train now because it has sort of left the station." We only commit to very few new partnerships.
In 2013 you started TEAM8 together with Roger. You're currently president and CEO. What exactly is Roger's role? He seems to be both your client and business partner.
It's a very unique situation because Roger is one of the four partners in the business. But he's really actually a client now. He doesn't come into the office and sit behind the desk and manage people, talk with brands, invest in companies but if we have an issue or we need advice from someone who is extremely bright in sport and business we can ask him any time. Take the Laver Cup for example: We created this internally at TEAM8. Roger was very instrumental in helping us create the tennis part of it. What would the structure look like? How many players should be on a team? What should the scoring look like? Should we move it around the world? Which brands would be a perfect fit? Currently Roger is really focusing on being the best tennis player he possibly can but it is my hope that once he slows down he'll have more time for TEAM8. Having his input, guidance, thinking and opinions on things more often will be invaluable.
TEAM8 is the co-organizer of the Laver Cup. What goals are you pursuing with this new tournament?
We wanted to create an event that could move around the world and spread the gospel of tennis. The Laver Cup was created to provide a platform for rivals to become teammates and for the generations to come together. Two years ago in Prague we had young players like Denis Shapovalov or Frances Tiafoe playing against legends of the game like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and they're being coached by these two incredible coaches: McEnroe and Borg. Their rivalry is over. But we were able to create a platform to bring that rivalry back. And they're playing in front of guys like Rod Laver. What we wanted to do is create an innovative event that the players look forward to competing in every year, that the sport is proud of and that could ultimately inspire the next generation of people to pick up a tennis racket, buy some balls and play this wonderful sport.
Would you call it a fun event?
It's a fun event for everybody involved. The fans are seeing a format over one weekend that they don't see normally. The problem with tennis is, if you're a Federer fan and you want to go to the US Open, when do you buy a ticket to see him play? The first day on Monday? Well, guess what, he might play Tuesday. The finals? He might lose early. So you don't know. What we can provide is three days where you know you're going to see your favorite players play. And they will not only play singles matches but also create unique doubles teams that you wouldn't normally see on tour.
Will players be able to include it in their calendar?
Sure. We had an incredible player field in the first year when no one really knew what the event was going to be about. The second year it was a lot easier to get players to participate and the third year we have players coming up to us saying: "How can I get involved? My ranking might not get me in but can I be a captain's pick?" Everybody wants to be on a team. Tennis is a lonely sport. You're fighting on your own, not really interacting with other players. The Laver Cup provides you with an excuse to be on a team with people who are not from your country.
Everyone wants to know when Roger will retire from active tennis.
I wish I knew because it would help me do my job. Roger doesn't know himself. I've heard him say many times one of the reasons why he doesn't want to discuss or even think about it is: the minute you start to think about it is the minute you have one foot out the door and you're on your way to retirement. So, I have heard him say things like: as long as I'm healthy, as long as my family is ok to travel, as long as I still enjoy practice. So, when that's no longer the case then I think he will begin to say: "Ok, it's time to slow down." But we don't talk about it. Because we don't actually want to face the truth which is it's going to have to happen sometime, sooner rather than later. It's a different analogy, it's golf, but he's on the back 9 of his career. Whether he's on the 16th or 17th hole, I don't know. But look at this year's Wimbledon final: he's playing great, so why stop as long as he's injury free.
You recently said, that the day of Roger's retirement would be a sad day for the world of sports, but not for you because you get more time from him to drive business.
Just recently in Miami I was saying goodbye to someone that we'd worked with on the tour for many years and all of a sudden I choked up. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses and could hide the tears. I have so many memories from tennis and in some cases they just fire at you, these are great memories, and I think when I said goodbye to this person I knew these moments are going to end at some point. So, of course I will be sad but I also look forward to doing more business with Roger. I think a tremendous amount of opportunities will present themselves to him and to TEAM8. I have never met a human being who can do as much as he can do. Both on the court, off the court, in family life, with philanthropy, with sponsors, and just being a normal guy.
How will tennis change once Roger decides to retire from active playing?
A tournament director recently told me that there are two tennis tournaments these days. The ones that have Roger Federer playing and the ones that don't. That's a really nice thing to say for Roger but not a great thing with regard to the overall health of tennis because you want there to be more parity. But I think with the likes of Nadal and Djokovic and some of the young players coming up tennis will do great. As Roger always says: There will always be a new number one. There will be another person holding up the Grand Slam trophies. Tennis has always had the ability to create global superstars. When it was Borg and McEnroe they said: "Ah, it's never going to happen again." Then Sampras and Agassi came around. "Ah, it's never going to happen again." Then Nadal and Federer have come around. It just happens, and that's the beauty of tennis.
Read also the first part of our interview with Tony Godsick.