The Davis Cup is no more. After 118 years, the member nations of the ITF, following a major input of money by footballer Gerard Piqué (via his group, Kosmos) and billionaire tournament director Larry Ellison, have voted by 71.43% in favour of a major overhaul, which marks the end of the competition as we know it.
In a certain way, they made history, albeit in a very bad way.
If they keep the home and away format for the zones, the final will be one big event held in a specific location: 18 teams (16 qualified and two wild-cards – !!! –), in a round-robin format. Best-of-three sets, singles first, doubles last.
The “final” will be held in either Madrid or Lille, in a country that had, of course, voted in favour of the change.
A new format that adds more to the calendar than the Davis Cup
That new format of the world competition (which we refuse to call “Davis Cup”) was designed to make things easier for the players, schedule-wise.
However, when we look at things as they stand, what will happen is the complete opposite.
The first round will be played just after the Australian Open; the second, just after the Sunshine double; the third, following the U.S. Open; the final the week after the ATP World Tour Finals. Not to mention that the format, namely round-robin, cannot be deemed as “good”. It sounds more like an exhibition than like an actual tournament.
The only difference is that more players will take part in the final, which will be a complete other tournament to add to an already overly charged calendar, at the end of just as gruelling a season.
Where is the good in that change?
Without consulting the players
Another part of the problem, on top of not having given much information as to what the changes would be, lies in that the players were not consulted in any way prior to the ITF Board’s vote.
Some players were asked their opinion on the matter by the media in the various tournaments they took part in. However, that number was scarce.
Yet, without the players, there can be no competition. Do they want one more tournament added to their load?
There should have been a debate on that matter, especially considering such an important change.
Meaningless September ties
The votation for the new Piqué-Haggerty Cup also has a negative impact, in which most of the September ties, which would have originally defined the World Group for 2019, have become meaningless.
Argentina and Colombia will play the February qualifying, as will Great Britain, etc.
Far from ideal for those who have purchased tickets, at a rather expensive price.
How can a football player…?
One question remains whole: how can a football player, an active football player to boot, come and give money to a sport of which he knows absolutely nothing, killing a competition of which he knows nothing of the history, and that this should be so widely accepted, without any form of debate?
This question remains unanswered, save for one word: money.
David Haggerty has, plainly and simply, sacrificed a centennial competition in order to make money.
It is an utter shame that money prevailed over the voices of legends of the game such as Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, and Ken Rosewall, to name only a few. Not to mention that the president of the ITF had a motion passed in order to enable a convicted person (Bernard Giudicelli, who was found guilty of defamation) to remain sitting on the Board because he was in favour of the Davis Cup change.
Changes were necessary, but so drastic?
We would all need to be blind to think that the Davis Cup needed no change. However, did those changes need to be so drastic?
Many were of the opinion that making the competition over two years, rather than four times a year, would have been sufficient. We agree.
A first-round bye for the finalists of the previous year/edition would have also been a good addition to it. On top of it, bringing back the ranking points for those who did take part in the competition would have been a good incentive for the players to participate.
Drastic changes can bear no good for such a competition, one that brought the game to places where no tournaments were played and giving the local fans a chance to see the best players in the world.
This new format, need we repeat, officially marks the end of the Davis Cup.
A very sad day for tennis.
(Original photo: Getty Images; Montage: BATennis World)