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Davis Cup Format Won't Change, Even if Many Hope it Will


By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday, November 27, 2022

Since the Davis Cup changed its format in 2019, making the finals a group affair with a host city, eliminating best-of-five matches, and making ties best of three with doubles as a decider, many have voiced strong negative opinions on the direction of the competition.

Tennis Express

Today, after falling in the final to Canada, Aussie captain Lleyton Hewitt, one of the competition’s greatest warriors, expressed views on the fact that doubles, the calling card of some nations, doesn’t even come into play in some ties.

He was asked how he felt about the fact that four sets (without any doubles) could decide a Davis Cup Final, while prior to 2019, four sets might not be enough to decide one singles match.

“Everyone knows my feelings,” Hewitt said, before clarifying that now isn’t really the right time to give constructive criticism. “I don't think now is the time to talk about it.”

Nevertheless, Hewitt expressed sympathy for the Dutch team, and others who pride themselves on having stellar doubles pairings.

“Coming here this week, I felt disappointed for the Dutch team, for example,” he said. “You know, they've got two quality doubles players, and they do all the hard work all year to come and perform in the so-called biggest stage of the year, and they don't get the chance to play a match. I thought that's a failing in this concept the whole time, and no one is listening.

“So I can talk till I'm blue in the face, but nothing's changing right now. We just keep putting Band-Aids – well, we don't, but certain people put Band-Aids on problems. It's not fixing the problem.”

Hewitt referenced the Mark Woodforde and Tood Woodbridge, Davis Cup stalwarts for the green and gold back in the day.

“I came up playing with the best doubles team in the world, the Woodies, at the time,” he said. They come into this format and they don't get to play a match? And they have made that a massive priority? I don't think that's right.”

The changes made in 2019 were made for myriad reasons. To help entice higher-ranked players (and all players) to commit to the competition was a main priority, with the thinking that making ties more digestible and less physically demanding would foster more participation.

But there have been side effects, such as diluting the doubles and removing the drama that used to come from having ties linger over three days with doubles center-staged on Saturday.

HAGGERTY - WE ARE VERY HAPPY WITH THE FORMAT

For the record, ITF president David Haggerty believes the competition is where it needs to be in the current moment. He says the players enjoy the fact that they don’t need to spend four weekends during the season, and that the physical demands placed on the players are less. It must be noted that the ATP season is packed, and all players are overworked on tour, in terms of play and travel. It’s a grind, and the Davis Cup only makes it harder. This is why the new format was created, and that is why organizers want to stick with it.

“I think just to reinforce, I think that we are very, very happy with the format and the changes that we have now,” he said. “It doesn't mean that sometime in the future we couldn't consider, but we feel the most important thing is to stabilize. The players like this. They have told us that. They like the two singles and the one doubles. It works at the time of the seasons that we play.”

The new Davis Cup is fast and furious, but perhaps too much so. But let us remember that the old format was relentlessly complained about until organizers had no choice but to change it.

There may be no going back, and perhaps returning to the old format would be a mistake – but maybe there is a compromise that could potentially satisfy a larger percentage of fans who now feel that the competition has been gutted beyond repair.

While many pine for home and away ties on every Davis Cup weekend. Kosmos, which owns the Davis Cup, and the ITF, are more interested in having the event take shape more like the World Cup, with international fans flying to a host city to experience the event.

It hasn’t exactly worked yet. In Spain, which has hosted the final since 2019, only 21 percent of ticket buyers were from outside the country.

“If you take a look at the attendance these days, it's quite good,” said Enric Rojas, CEO of Kosmos. “I think that one thing that we must improve, well, must or we should improve, is that this is the World Cup of tennis. We really want to be a really international event having as many international fans as possible.

“So I gave the data of having 21% of people outside of Spain. That, for me, is the biggest point to be improved. If we can get, I don't know, about 50/50 or something like that, it happens in many other sports around the world, that would be great.”


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