By Ros Satar
- The Davis Cup as we know it is no more, but honestly what just did happen?
- We pick apart some of the issues, questions and a few other ponderings of our own
FLORIDA, USA – The International Tennis Federation has gained approval for its proposals to radically overhaul the Davis Cup – we have gathered just a few of the talking points here.
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What just happened
Depending on who you talk to, 118 years of tradition have just been wiped out by a ‘yes’ vote for a number of radical reforms to the Davis Cup format
What WAS the Davis Cup
Davis Cup by BNP Paribas has self—styled itself as the World Cup of Tennis. It is the largest annual international team competition in sport, with 134 teams entered in 2017. The competition is 118 years old having been founded in 1900.
What is it now?
From 2019, the competition will see 18 nations and the world’s best players compete in a week-long season finale to be crowned Davis Cup champions. The first edition of the new event will be held in Madrid or Lille from 18-24 November, with the inaugural host city to be announced in the coming weeks.
The 25-year agreement represents a total investment of $3 billion into tennis, creating substantial and historic levels of investment into the global development of tennis through the ITF and its 210-member National Associations. There will be a significant increase in the nations’ income from the competition and a new player prize fund of $20 million, elevating Davis Cup by BNP Paribas to Grand Slam prize money levels.
Who is responsible for this and what have they got to say for themselves?
ITF President David Haggerty said: “I am delighted that the nations have today voted to secure the long-term status of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. By voting in favour of these reforms, we will be able to work with Kosmos to realise the huge potential of the competition and elevate it to new standards. This new event will create a true festival of tennis and entertainment which will be more attractive to players, to fans, to sponsors and to broadcasters.
“In addition, the new revenues for nations that the event will generate will have a transformative effect on the development of tennis in all nations. Our mission is to ensure that this historic decision will benefit the next generation of players for decades to come.
“I would like to thank the nations for taking this historic decision and the ITF Board of Directors for their commitment and support. I would also like to thank Kosmos for their passion and partnership. I have no doubt that by working together we will ensure a brighter future for tennis all around the world.”
Gerard Pique, President and Founder of Kosmos, said: “Today is a historic day and we are convinced that the agreement ratified by the nations certainly guarantees the future of the Davis Cup and the development of tennis at all levels. I would like to thank ITF President David Haggerty, the ITF Board of Directors and the entire team of ITF professionals for their work with Kosmos over the past few months and welcome a new stage in which we will continue to evolve together. I would also like to congratulate all those who, with their votes, have embraced this change and have seen the momentous decision that was in their hands.
“This is the beginning of a new stage that guarantees the pre-eminent and legitimate place that the Davis Cup should have as a competition for national teams while adapting to the demands of this professional sport at the highest level. It is a great honour for me to be part of this historic process of a sport that I am passionate about and, without a doubt, in both personal and professional terms this is one of the happiest days of my life.”
Wait… is it THAT Gerard Pique?
Yes, and he has taken time out from being busy at Barcelona at the start of the new football season to head up the Kosmos Investment Group and bring about fundamental changes to the sport of tennis… before heading back to Barcelona as he had to get permission to come to Florida for the vote.
Right but what does this ACTUALLY mean?
It is probably a little too soon to tell but here’s what we know/think.
This September’s World Group Play-offs is effectively now a play off for seeding for the new qualification stage where 24 teams will battle it out in the Home/Away structure we all know and love. The 12 winners, this year’s semi-finalists and two wild-cards then automatically gain access to the finals to be held in its traditional slot.
When we get to that week though, the format gets its biggest change with a round-robin event preceding a more traditional quarter-final, semi-final and final structure. Just like the World Cup.
So what are the issues?
Traditionally (irony, not lost) the Davis Cup final takes place the week after the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals. Because it ran from Friday to Sunday, with media pre-tournament press starting mid week before, it was possibly to finish one, and after a day or so’s grace travel to the other.
Now you are potentially finishing late on Sunday and flying straight to either Madrid or Lille for its initial running with no time in between.
All but the most ardent and financially capable fans will be able to go in the hope of seeing their teams progress through the round robin stages to the knockout stages.
Players in the finals under the new format would have accepted that their off-season would start a little later, but those in the two nations not in that closing stage would have been able to get a bit more of a vacation before the off-season starts.
Where does Laver Cup fit in?
The Laver Cup is a three day tournament that was launched in 2017 with the backing of Tennis Australia and heavy involvement with Roger Federer who helped Team Europe to a 15-9 victory over Team World.
The teams comprise six of the best ATP tennis players from Europe against sic from the rest of the world. Bjorn Borg is the captain of Team Europe and John McEnroe is the captain of Team World.
The tournament is named in honour of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, who was the only man to win two calendar-year Grand Slams and is widely accepted as one of the greatest players of all time.
The inaugural event took place in Prague in September 2017, and the plan is to have the location rotate between major cities in Europe and the rest of the world each year – with the next edition to take place in Chicago in late September.
Its timing is typically in the weekend between the indoor hard-court tournaments in Europe and the Asian swing before the tour returns to Europe and concludes with the season ending finales for the Main tour and the Next Gen finals.
What about the Fed Cup?
The women’s equivalent tournament has been largely left alone by the ITF although there have been plans to make the World group similar to the Davis Cup (as was) with 16 teams in the elite group, rather than World Group I & II as it is now. It remains to be seen if Kosmos want to put a similar/significant amount of investment into that.
And… the World Cup of Tennis?
To muddy the waters even more, the ATP World Tour had also been in negtiations with Kosmos to revive the World Team Cup in 2020 – but more crucially offering participants ranking points.
November 24, 2019: First champions of new Davis Cup World Cup of Tennis Finals are crowned.
December 27, 2019: The ATP World Team Cup gets underway in Australia.
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) August 16, 2018
Now, in collaboration with Tennis Australia, its introduction could help sound the death-knell for another historic ITF event – The Hopman Cup. It will enter its 39th year and could be the last running of the popular invitational team event which has often served as a season opener for some of the World’s top players, with Federer set to appear again in 2019.
So what’s next?
A good question, and at this stage apart from the handy video explaining the new format, which can be found here and we can only wait and see. No matter what happens next, this will be the future for what was previously known, and loved, as the Davis Cup.
No-one will deny that changes needed to be made, and possibilities of reducing it to once every two years, and maybe introducing tie-break sets or reducing the sets from best of five to best of three were discarded for a format that fits other sports but could be challenging with a more niche fan base than football.
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