Davis Cup | Madrid to host 2019 Final
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Madrid has been chosen to host the first two newly revamped Davis Cup Finals in 2019 and 2020.
We are delighted to be bringing the 2019 Davis Cup... finals to Madrid. The city is a fitting location to stage the highest quality tennis and great entertainment for thousands of fans from all over the world. David Haggerty
Interestingly, the ITF and Kosmos Tennis made the joint announcement together, quite a departure from the usual formalities proffered by the governing body and perhaps indicative of the vested interests that the investment group now holds in tennis.
A 25-year licensing deal worth $3 billion (£2.3 billion/€2.6 billion) has been agreed between the ITF and the Kosmos and, as part of the deal, Kosmos will pour $125 million (£95 million/€107 million) into tennis each year, with an $18 million (£14 million/€15 million) deposit apparently already paid.
Under the new format proposed by Kosmos, headed by Barcelona footballer Gerard Piqué, and adopted by the ITF in August, the competition will bring together nations in one place for a week at the end of the tennis season, presumably November, although a date was not included in the media release or mentioned on the ITF website.
According to the statement, the Davis Cup Steering Committee selected Madrid with the 2019 event taking place on clay at the iconic La Caja Mágica, located in Parque Lineal del Manzanares, and hosted in partnership with the Ayuntamiento de Madrid, the city’s council, and the Comunidad de Madrid, the regional governing body.
The venue will see the 118-year-old competition entering its new phase, welcoming 18 nations and the world’s best players to compete for the prestigious Davis Cup trophy next year.
For 2020 organisers still must decide between holding the event either at the same location or at the WiZink Center.
The Davis Cup Steering Committee was comprised of ITF President David Haggerty, Piqué, another Spanish former professional tennis player Galo Blanco and ITF Vice President René Stammbach.
A submission from the Métropole Européenne de Lille was also considered, with the Committee noting the high standard of proposal from both candidate cities.
Prior to the Qualifier Draw on Wednesday, the Steering Committee also awarded two wild cards for the 2019 finals to Great Britain and Argentina, where they will be joined by the four semi-finalists of the 2018 competition – Croatia, France, Spain, USA – and the 12 winners of the 2019 Qualifiers to be held in February.
“We are delighted to be bringing the 2019 Davis Cup… finals to Madrid,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement.
“The city is a fitting location to stage the highest quality tennis and great entertainment for thousands of fans from all over the world,” he added.
Speaking later to BBC Sport Haggerty said the new deal brokered to revamp the competition can ensure it becomes the definitive team event in tennis, even though the ATP is planning its own team event, the World Team Cup, from 2020.
The two tournaments are due to be held just five weeks apart at the start of the year, with the Davis Cup reverting from its current guise to a season-ending 18-team event taking place in a single week.
ATP boss Chris Kermode has described the situation as ‘insane’ and Haggerty says negotiations are ongoing between the two ‘to run one team event – the best that we can.’
“We think Davis Cup with its 118-year history has a great reason to be that event, and I think by working together with the ATP, and tennis…why not?” Haggerty told BBC Sport.
From the Kosmos deal, $80 million (£61 million/€68 million) is earmarked for the Davis Cup, $20 million (£15 million/€17 million) will be used for prize money and $16 million (£12 million/€14 million) for marketing and staging costs.
The remaining $44 million (£33.5 million/€37.5 million) will be the ITF’s licence fee which, Haggerty says, will lead to a $25 million (£19 million/€21 million) increase in the amount of money available to distribute to member nations and development projects each year.
The ITF Is also planning two new properties with the Kosmos money – a mixed doubles event in April and a winner-take-all tournament in September – to fill the vacancies in the calendar created by the change in Davis Cup format.
“It is a significant and vast amount of money which we are excited about, but we know the economics are there for them [Kosmos] to be able to make some money as well,” Haggerty is quoted as saying.
As it stands, however, tennis is set to have two competing team competitions taking place next to each other in the calendar.
“My business history has always been trying to work together and collaborate,” Haggerty says. “I’m excited that we’re having the conversations again.
“I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I think it’s better for tennis if tennis can work together. We should be able to work together.”
The current Davis Cup format is a knockout event played in February, July, September and November at venues around the globe, with best-of-five match ties following Grand Slam events until the final round.
Many top players have skipped the event in recent years to ease their schedule.
Under the reforms, the Finals will take place in November featuring 18 teams: 12 winners from 24-team home and away qualifying ties in February, the previous year’s four semi-finalists and two wildcard nations.
Great Britain and Argentina have been picked as the wildcards for the 2019 edition, organisers announced on Wednesday.
The Davis Cup Finals will take place in a group-stage format over the first four days, with the countries divided into six groups of three teams.
Each tie will consist of three matches, two singles and one doubles, of best-of-three sets.
The six group winners and the two second-placed teams with the best records will qualify for the knock-out quarter-finals.
The teams placed 5th to 16th will compete in the following year’s Qualifiers, while the teams placed 17th and 18th will be relegated to their respective Zone Groups.
The overhaul of the competition received 71.43 percent support from about 120 delegates at the ITF AGM in Orlando, Florida in August, but some fans remain unhappy about the changes.
The Telegraph reports that LTA Chief Executive Scott Lloyd has welcomed Britain’s wild card, which saves the team from having to compete in February’s Qualifiers round.
“Although we didn’t vote for the Davis Cup reforms,” said Lloyd in a statement, “We have always said we would support the ITF and it’s our job now to get behind the competition.”
In a separate interview, Haggerty suggested that Great Britain’s superb travelling support had been a factor in the decision.
With the Finals week to be played in Madrid next year, the trip would not be a long one for British fans.
“We looked at things like the heritage of the nation in Davis Cup. Are the fans engaged, do the fans travel,” said Haggerty.
“We also wanted to get a sense of the top players’ participation, and if they didn’t participate, to make sure that the team was high calibre without the top players.”
This last remark could be taken as a reference to Switzerland.
With Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in the team, the Swiss would be among the favourites to lift the title, but it seems unlikely that either man will participate, and the next men on the rankings list, Henri Laaksonen and Marc-Andrea Huesler, are not exactly marquee names.
In theory, the ITF could respond to Federer’s absence by barring him from the 2020 Olympics, but Haggerty was conciliatory on Wednesday.
“Within the rules are things about past champions, past Olympians and Grand-Slam winners,” he said. “Someone like Roger would be great to have at the Olympics.”
Olympic eligibility via participation in the Davis Cup is perhaps the ITF’s strongest trump card in all this squabble.