I need to come clean: I have not really followed that closely the restructuring of the Davis Cup. I do exist on Twitter in very limited capacity, so reading tweets from certain tennis folk who either clarify developments themselves or “retweet” those who cover these stories none the less does keep me more or less abreast of what is going-on. Predictably there are the two sides on this issue: those for the changes and those against probably any changes to such an historically relevant element of international tennis.
You might try to mark me as a traditionalist, one who would be against these changes. Yes and no. I need to get a clearer picture of the changes. From afar, the future organization of the Davis Cup, which was confirmed yesterday, by vote in Orlando, Florida, seems to involve a large multi-team tournament at the end of the year at a neutral site. That’s a lot of change, in a nutshell.
Much resistance to this will be the almost complete elimination of the home-and-away aspect that involves home or hostile crowds that have made Davis Cup so memorable and dramatic for players, teams and fans. Those of you who have watched enough Davis Cup in the past know what this means.
There are some qualification ties with home-and-away conditions, but this is minimal. The year-end tournament, which is hoping to give the competition more of a world cup feel, seems to have most of the focus of this new Davis Cup format.
I did notice, too, that I believe Bo5 has been removed from Davis Cup.
The changes, from news reports and the words of various current and former players and others, appear to be motivated by money. Sponsors are pouring money into the new Davis Cup, hence the popularity, based on the vote (by people in power). This shouldn’t surprise too many people though this can certainly upset some.
I believe the competition started back at the turn of the century (~1900) as a competition between England and the United States. The U.S. has dominated the Davis Cup with 32 wins; Australia is a close second with 28.
The DC has been a part of every tennis fan’s sport interest. My own experience has been completely enhanced by watching the likes of McEnroe, Tanner, Chang, Agassi, Courier and Sampras among others represent my country. At our peak in the 70s and 80s Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Johnny Mac and Vitas Gerulaitis carried the flag, dominating DC competition, beating the likes of Argentina and Guillermo Vilas or Romania and Ilie Năstase.
How about McEnroe beating Wilander in the deciding match in the 1982 Davis Cup quarter-finals in a 6 hour and 32 minute epic. U.S.A went on to win the Cup that year beating France who was led by Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah.
McEnroe was dominant in his Davis Cup career, playing both singles and doubles, finishing with an over-all record of 59-10 (41-8 singles and 18-2 doubles).
Changing something so historic (over 100 years old) is complicated. That the impetus surrounds money, corporate money, shades the narrative even more deleteriously.
Here’s a little excerpt from a BBC article. One can see the conflict inherent in this business model, juxtaposed with the mission at the end of this excerpt (who will ultimately benefit?):
Barcelona and former Spain defender Pique founded and leads the investment group Kosmos, which is backed by Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani.
“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,” said Pique.
American billionaire Larry Ellison, who runs the Indian Wells tournament, has said he will also invest.
“The new revenues for nations that the event will generate will have a transformative effect on the development of tennis in all nations,” added Haggerty.
“Our mission is to ensure that this historic decision will benefit the next generation of players for decades to come.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same (19th century French critic Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr). Appropriate that I end with this popular and useful epigram attributed to the French, the current and defending Davis Cup champs.
Del Potro and Kyrgios heading for a second TB, the Argentine up a set.
Goffin beat Anderson in straights already 2 and 4.
Stay-tuned — several big matches today. I’m pretty sure all of these winners in the early R16 make-up matches will turn-around and play quarter-final matches later today.