London | Davis Cup trials are irrelevant
The ITF has unveiled an extraordinary plan to go into partnership with Barcelona football star Gerard Pique to change the Davis Cup World Group from the current year-long, knockout format into a one-week, end of year shoot-out. Under the plans, the World Cup of Tennis Finals will be played over seven days in November in the traditional week of the Davis Cup Final. The Finals will feature a round-robin format followed by a quarterfinal knockout stage. Each tie will consist of two singles and one doubles over best-of-three sets. The 16 World Group nations will automatically qualify for the Finals, and a further two nations will be selected.
This proposed change, which requires approval at the ITF’s Annual General Meeting in August, is a blatant attempt to create a made-for-TV event which will take away fans’ chance to see their country play on home soil. The proposed 18-country format also ensures that the ITF will be able to give wildcards to countries able to attract the biggest TV audiences. The TV rights will be far more valuable in North America with the ITF in future being able to guarantee the presence of the USA, irrespective of whether they are in the World Group or not. It remains to be seen whether reducing a Davis Cup tie from 25 sets to 9 (and possibly just 6) will draw in the elite players, but one thing is for sure, the results of the trials currently being conducted during the 2018 Davis Cup are completely irrelevant, at least as far as the World Group is concerned.
And no, it’s not April Fool’s Day. I checked!