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A Competition With Rod Laver’s Name and Roger Federer’s Backing

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Rod Laver, center, with Rafael Nadal, left and Roger Federer announcing plans for the Laver Cup, a team contest pitting Europe against the world.

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Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Rod Laver and Roger Federer are separated by 43 years of age and more millions of dollars than Laver would care to count. But as to which tennis legend produced the richer social stories to pass on for posterity, Federer would readily admit: It’s no contest.

“Playing in venues all across America, almost like a traveling circus, you know?” Federer said of Laver’s far less lucrative but more organic experience.

True tennis historians know how much Laver sacrificed — specifically in the number of possible Grand Slam event victories he deprived himself of, settling for 11 — when he shunned the amateur establishment to become a barnstorming professional in 1963. Federer, the career leader in men’s Grand Slam singles titles with 17, considers himself a student of the past, appreciative of the risks Laver took, the pro Tour groundwork that was laid for him.

“It’s almost hard to grasp,…

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