Davis Cup | Players battle and use it as platform to oppose change
Davis Cup action has been as much about making a statement off the court as well as on it.
The competition takes place amidst an ongoing debate concerning its future.
Later this year a vote will take place about a plan to revamp it.
Set out by the ITF with a 25-year $3 billion investment from Kosmos, officials want to turn the event into a week-long team competition held in one venue.
Matches will be reduced to three sets with the home and away ties being removed from the World Group.
Greetings to Dave Haggerty, this is Davis Cup German captain Michael Kohlmann
Supporters argue that it is needed to accommodate players better with their demanding scheduling commitments, but critics have slammed the proposal as too radical.
Former World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt, Australia’s Captain, falls into the latter category.
“Another weekend of @DavisCup tennis showcasing all the elite talent the tennis world has to offer. @ITF_Tennis have their head in the sand. Current stars and future greats representing their countries.” He tweeted.
Hewitt’s view is one that has been shared by others throughout the weekend, providing the ITF with plenty to think about.
Saturday saw the German team of Jan-Lennard Struff and Tim Puetz outlast their Spanish rivals in a five-set epic that lasted over four hours.
Played inside a packed bullring in Valencia, the near-capacity crowd cheered both teams on despite the gloomy weather.
Shortly after the match, German captain Michael Kohlmann seized upon his chance to take aim at David Haggerty, President of the ITF, who has been a key figure in the proposed changes, tweeting: “Greetings to Dave Haggerty, this is Davis Cup.”
In wake of Kohlmann’s comment, the German Tennis Federation joined in solidarity.
Tweeting the video with the caption ‘true and important words from our captain.’
Belgium player Steve Darcis later described the comment as a ‘great call’.
In Italy, Nicolas Mahut stressed his viewpoint during an interview with daviscup.com after he and Pierre-Hugues Herbert clinched their doubles match over Italy.
France, who are the current Davis Cup champions, is one of the most vocal opponents of removing home and away ties from the event.
“This is what Davis Cup is all about. This is why we are defending the format to play home and away.” Mahut said.
“This is why this is unbelievable to play. Even if this is not at home. This is what Davis Cup is all about.”
A vote on the 18-team proposal will take place in August at the ITF’s annual AGM meeting, requiring two thirds backing for it to go ahead.
In an interview with the French newspaper, L’Equipe, Francesco Ricci Bitti, the former TF President (1999-2015), reflected on the proposal, starting from what happened in 2009.
“I think the changes made in the calendar in 2009 were the most painful thing for Davis Cup,” he said.
“While we were assured by ATP, through a letter signed by most of the top-20 players in the world that they planned to play Davis Cup the week after Grand Slams, it wasn’t the case because it put too much pressure on players coming from their run in the Grand Slams.
“ITF should have never accepted it.”
His biggest regret: “We may not have invested as we had to on the Davis Cup’s growth, especially since there was a big increase in the prize money in the Grand Slams and the ATP Tour tournaments.”
Then he criticised Tennis Australia for investing money on the Laver Cup: “It’s sad that Australia has [supported the Laver Cup], given its important history in the Davis Cup, even if I see the strong defence of the current [Davis Cup] format by the captain Lleyton Hewitt.
“His team does not share the same opinion as him.”