Davis Cup | Great Britain handed Wild Card for revamped Finals
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Great Britain and Argentina have been exempted from February’s Davis Cup qualifying ties after being awarded wild cards into next year’s revamped Finals.
Our Davis Cup record over the last few years is something we are all very proud of, and our ranking amongst the top five nations in the world shows our commitment to the competition. Leon Smith
On Wednesday, the ITF and Kosmos Tennis confirmed that the two countries have been given the wild cards due to their recent success in the competition.
Britain won the tournament in 2015, followed by Argentina in 2016.
Their nominations was selected by the Davis Cup Steering Committee, a group consisting of ITF President David Haggerty, Vice-President Rene Stammbach, Kosmos founder Gerard Piqué and former player Galo Blanco.
Victory over Uzbekistan in September ensured Britain would certainly be competing in the tournament and be seeded in qualifying for the new event, but now the team is guaranteed a place among the 18 elite teams competing for the title next November.
“Our Davis Cup record over the last few years is something we are all very proud of, and our ranking amongst the top five nations in the world shows our commitment to the competition,” Great Britain Davis Cup Captain Leon Smith told BBC Sport.
“We are looking forward to being amongst the best of the best next year, creating more memories and inspiring our fans to get behind us and the team as we look to win the competition.”
As a result of the wild cards, Britain and Argentina will be replaced by Australia and Switzerland as the two seeded nations in the 2019 qualifier draw, as the highest-ranked unseeded nations that lost in the 2018 World Group Play-offs.
Next year the Davis Cup is set to undergo a radical change, with the team competition due to take place over one weekend for qualifying and a week for the Finals.
During the first weekend in February, 24 countries will play their qualifying ties, either home or away.
Then, later in the year, the Finals will be held at one venue over a week in November where a total of 18 teams are set to participate, comprised of 12 qualified teams, the four semi-finalists from 2018 and two wild cards.
As a result, the two wild card countries join France, Croatia, Spain and the USA in booking their place in the 2019 finals.
That quartet of teams automatically qualified for the finals after reaching the semi-finals of this year’s tournament.
It is still unknown as to where the first edition of the week-long Davis Cup Finals will take place, although Kosmos CEO, Edmund Chu, has stated that it will be held in Europe over the next two years.
Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion into the ITF over the next 25 years, much of which is earmarked for the Davis Cup.
“I can say that the headquarters that will organise the first edition will be in Europe both in 2019 and 2020.” Spanish website Punto de Break quoted Chu as saying.
“We will announce it in a few days, many countries that will play it are European and we want it to be in that continent before it goes to Asia and North America.”
The revamp isn’t without its critics with some saying that the changes are too radical.
Australia is a vocal opponent with team captain Lleyton Hewitt previously accusing the ITF of ‘killing’ the competition. Other countries and players have also expressed similar opinions.
Despite the criticism, Chu insists that the Davis Cup has been suffering in recent years due to a lack of investment, something he believes was due to the historic competition not changing over the years.
“The idea came two years ago: Piqué and I were thinking about creating a World Cup for men and women, we both loved Davis, that passion that competition has, but we saw that It was a format that suffered, with problems of sponsors and investment, he said.
“I think it was not good to have more than 100 years with very few changes.”
The idea of the revamp is to attract the biggest names to the finals, with both Andy Murray and Del Potro fitting that bill, and with Switzerland and Australia now seeded, it also improves the prospects of the likes of Swiss duo Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, and Australian Nick Kyrgios featuring in the finals.
The last of the finals to be staged under the traditional format will see France attempting to defend their crown against Croatia in Lille on 23-25 November.
Meanwhile, the ITF and Kosmos Tennis have announced the Draw for the 2019 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Qualifiers to be held on 1-2 February 2019.
The 12 winners will compete in the 2019 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas finals, while the 12 losing nations will compete in their respective 2019 Zone Group competitions.
Qualifier ties will consist of four singles rubbers and one doubles rubber, with all matches played over the best-of-three tiebreak sets.
Two singles rubbers will be played on Friday 1 February, with the doubles followed by the two reverse singles rubbers on Saturday 2 February.
The qualifying draw is as follows:
Brazil (c) v Belgium (s)
Uzbekistan (c) v Serbia (s)
Australia (s) (c) (*) v Bosnia/Herzegovina
India (c) v Italy (s)
Germany (s) (c) v Hungary
Switzerland (s) (c) v Russia
Kazakhstan (s) v Europe/Africa nation TBC
Czech Republic (s) (c) v Netherlands
Colombia (c) (*) v Sweden (s)
Austria (s) (c) v Chile
Canada (s) v Europe/Africa nation TBC
China, P.R. (c) v Japan (s)
(s) denotes seeded nation; (c) denotes choice of ground; (*) denotes choice of ground determined by lot
ITF President David Haggerty said: “Today’s draw marks the start of an exciting new chapter in Davis Cup’s long and distinguished history, mixing tradition and innovation.
“I have no doubt that February’s Qualifiers will stimulate the passion in fans and players that has always been a feature of Davis Cup, and that this will carry through to the finals where we will witness a magnificent world-class sporting spectacle. I would like to wish all nations competing in the Qualifiers the best of luck.”
The two remaining nations from Europe/Africa will be confirmed after the 2018 Europe/Africa Zone Group I relegation play-offs in October and based on the Davis Cup Nations Ranking of Monday 29 October.
These nations will be drawn into the Qualifier Draw following the completion of the 2018 competition, with the choice of ground for their respective ties confirmed at this time.