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The ITF have just killed the Davis Cup

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Expert
16th August, 2018
8

The International Tennis Federation have killed the Davis Cup today.

Voting on reforms at ITF headquarters have brought about a positive vote to all but eradicate home-and-away ties, as well as five-set tennis, ruining 118 years of history.

It’s a sad day in the history of this sport. A day which will all but kill international tennis and what was one of the greatest sporting spectacles in terms of atmosphere and national passion.

I know it seems a little bit rich to say that so soon after the FIFA World Cup, but it’s true. You only had to watch the passion on display in Belgium last year, or in France during the final. Or in literally any other tie played in the world cup.

The Davis Cup will still exist, but I, among many others simply won’t acknowledge this to be the case. Call it the Davis Cup all you want, but this new tournament structure is no longer the real Davis Cup.

Instead of passion, unbridled intensity and playing for the nation in front of home fans or away in a hostile environment, the whole thing will be neutralised for a ‘finals’ series at the back-end of the year apart from some first-round home-and-away ties to decide who makes the finals.

Even they will be dumbed down to nothing. Three-set matches played across two days with an eye to get the best players in the world actually participating.

Money has been used as one of the main arguments. The ITF say they are entering into a $3 billion partnership from the Kosmos investment group, founded by Barcelona football star Gerard Pique and supported by Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani.

While it has to be acknowledged we live in a money-first world where everything needs to be making some sort of profit, this is the one tournament which should have been untouchable.

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Concentration spans might be changing and the environment we live in to, but there is an argument for five-set tennis both here and at grand slams.

No one watches the three-set tennis on the ATP and WTA tour when you compare it with the numbers turning in around the world to watch the grand slams and indeed, the Davis Cup.

Five-set tennis is still the pinnacle in the men’s game, and there should be no reason players can’t handle it, or playing for a few weeks out of the year with the national shirt on without ranking points or a huge pool of prizemoney on the line.

Tennis players are rewarded richly for their work across the calendar year, particularly for those who are able to make the main draw of a grand slam.

For players at the top of the sport to come out and voice their support for the changes is beyond a joke.

Other players though, have said they won’t either support or play in the new format, leaving the tournament without some of its stars.

The other arguments being used include injured players and players not wanting to put themselves through the Davis Cup. Newsflash though, finals being played at the end of the season aren’t going to help that.

Naturally, stars of the sport are going to be injured after playing four grand slams and a gruelling U.S. hard court season. So having all the top stars at the tournament isn’t going to happen anyway.

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Frankly, it’s a crying shame these changes have gone through, because the Davis Cup has given us excellence, brilliance and a stepping stone for young players to make a name for themselves in hostile environments over the years.

Like Lleyton Hewitt knocking over Roger Federer in five sets in front of 20,000 screaming Aussies at the Rod Laver Arena during the 2002 semi-finals.

Or beating France in the 2000 finals with Mark Philippoussis getting the better of Cédric Pioline to avoid a live fifth rubber featuring an extremely young Lleyton Hewitt at the time.

And how could you not mention 1983 and 1986, when Australia on both occasions got the better of Sweden in the final to become champions with names like Pat Cash and John Fitzgerald playing.

Even Alex de Minaur proved what he was made of earlier this year, taking then world No.3 Alexander Zverev to five sets in Brisbane despite being rated no chance of doing so by anyone.

Of course, they are just the tip of the iceberg, and we haven’t even mentioned other nations yet. That’s the power of the Davis Cup.

Australia were one of the key ‘no’ voters in this whole mess, with current captain Lleyton Hewitt one of the most vocal against the changes.

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He and Australia lost their fight to have the Davis Cup remain the excellent tournament it has always been though. The ITF think this will become a fifth grand slam, but anyone with a set of eyes and who likes a good atmosphere at events will know it’s simply not going to happen.

Grand slam tennis is great, but players are playing for themselves. This tournament gives them a chance to play for their nations, and taking away the right to do it either at home, or away in what are some of the toughest environments on the planet is a joke.

Hell, I would even prefer losing away from home, like the team did to Belgium in last year’s semi-finals than this ridiculous new format.

If they absolutely must go ahead with a structure which will murder the Davis Cup in cold blood, then whatever. I won’t watch it, the atmosphere won’t be nearly as good and nor will the intrigue.

But don’t call it the Davis Cup. That would be ruining more than a century of tradition.

Retire the Davis Cup and call it something else, because this isn’t the Davis Cup anymore.

This is something posing as the Davis Cup which in truth, will be one big joke – at the moment, it looks like a glorified Hopman Cup. Nothing against the Hopman Cup, but it’s not exactly the most serious tournament in the world, is it?

It’ll become just another tournament, not something special that the Davis Cup has always been over the years.

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Rest in peace to the what was the real World Cup of tennis.

You will be missed.