The curtain comes down on this Davis Cup group stage and everything remains the same: no one is happy. Reactionaries and nostalgists argue that the new format has devoured the essence of the competition, while supporters of the new model stumble over the imperfection and flaws of a system that, after all, is at the mercy of the illogic of the calendar. Beyond the appeal of Djokovic, always a hook, this latest episode does not help to clear up the unknowns that accompany the change established four years ago, in the same way that the original formula had collapsed – after 119 years of immobility – and disaffection was widespread . Therefore, neither one nor the other approves and meanwhile the Davis remains in the air, surrounded one year and the next also by the buzz.
Noise, comments and criticism prevail over the game. Absences or reproaches whistle more than action. In Valencia, Manchester, Bologna and Split, the four venues chosen as platforms for access to the November final, these days the debate and darts have weighed more than the facts; Also, the stands predominantly empty on weekdays. The Spanish elimination – in the end, a victory in three series after this Sunday’s victory over South Korea (2-1) – will be associated with the resignation of Carlos Alcaraz, the Murcian “tired” after the summer tour, and the look Panoramic highlights that only one of the ten best tennis players in the world – Djokovic, 36 years old and recently crowned in New York – agreed to compete in search of qualification.
“Thank you, Gerard Pique and ITF,” the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka ironically said on Tuesday, seasoning his message with a video recorded by himself in which he showed the half-empty Manchester pavilion. “Attendance last year in the group stage. You can compare it yourself, Stan. We don’t organize it anymore. “Ask the ITF…”, replied the footballer, now retired, with the graph of spectators who attended the group stage last year, 113,268. “Davis Cup trivia question: Did you know that the ITF is paying people to make noise and support the countries in each match?”, the tennis player returned to the fray on Sunday, this time pointing directly to the highest organization world and reaffirming his accusation in the face of the incredulity of the reactions.
Pique the entrepreneur and his company, Kosmos, landed in the world of tennis in 2019 as a revolution. He was going to achieve what no one had achieved until then, after more than a century of statism: shake up the inflexible structures of the ITF and a sport as traditional as tennis. Financially backed by his friend Hiroshi Mikitani, owner of the Japanese company Rakuten, he seduced the American David Haggerty, head of the international organization, and after achieving approval close to 80% at the assembly held in Orlando to give the green light or deny transformation, celebrated his pharaonic dream in style. “This is the project of my life,” he told EL PAIS during a subsequent meeting in New York.
Kosmos: losses and breakup
The fact is that the Catalan did not enter on the right foot. Despite surrounding himself with professionals in the environment such as Galo Blanco, Albert Costa or Fernando Verdasco, he was always seen as an intruder in the world. And he landed his way, hitting Roger Federer. “His legs are enough for what they are given,” he said during an event in Madrid when he learned that the new idea did not convince the Swiss. Despite the coldness of some totems in the reception, he and Kosmos shaped what happens today, although introducing successive tweaks from edition to edition. Rough way, the new system was based on a series of playoffs in February, home and away, in the traditional style; a group stage that was initially integrated into the final and was later distributed among four venues; and the November resolution, first in Madrid and now in Malaga, like last year.
“I liked the old format better,” said Boris Becker this weekend, during an event at the Laureus Awards in Seville. “Whoever came up with these rules has no idea about tennis. I hope you have a moment and decide in favor of our sport. We have to go back, with home and away games; “That was a special atmosphere,” the German added, remembering the series that his team gave in 2018 in the Plaza de Toros de Valencia. More forceful was the Frenchman Julien Benneteau, coach of the French women’s team: “How dare you speak? You have killed, along with the ITF, one of the pillars of tennis. “At least shut your mouth, please.” And Wawrinka left nothing in the pipeline: “I would love to understand how it is possible that, with Davis being such a great success last year, the 25-year agreement ended in just five”.
The Swiss (38 years old) was referring to the maneuver that Kosmos carried out in January of this year, when he broke the contract he had signed at the time in exchange for 2.5 billion euros. Pique wanted to nip the losses in the bud, he reported that the ITF was demanding an annual fee of around 40 and the rupture ended up in court, with lawsuits on both sides. At the moment, there is no error. In any case, the ITF opted to maintain the model – similar to that of a football World Cup – and this week the more or less veiled criticisms of the protagonists have been reproduced.
to the queue
“You can’t blame Pique for the change. If there is anyone to blame it is the ITF, because they approved the decision. This format is not ideal. The previous one had to be changed, but we have to find the balance at an intermediate point between the previous one and the current one,” Djokovic spoke in Valencia, where the Spanish captain, David Ferrer, suggested that playing during the week was counterproductive and other representatives of the team stressed the need for adjustments. “I think we should take a look. We have been lucky enough to play at home (Madrid in 2019 and 2021, 2022 and 2023 in Malaga), but other teams have not, and that is very important. Being on a weekend, I earned a lot; people work” said Bernabe Zapata. “All formats have positive and negative things. We can’t complain because we are at home, but we can complain about playing fast… We would have to look for something.”
The current director of the competition, Feliciano Lopez, considers that “this is the ideal format” and aspires to correct the deficiencies over time, while remembering that there were numerous voices calling for the renewal of the old system. The Toledo native is not wrong, who, however, is fully aware that the fit of the competition in the calendar is forced because both the number and the extension of the regular tournaments continue to grow, the dates are reduced and the Finals must be scheduled in the queue, overlapping with the Masters Cup – which the best players attend – and when the tennis players are already exhausted after the grind of the entire season. It should be remembered that the Davis Cup distributes cash prizes – both to the participants and their federations – but not points towards the ranking of the men’s circuit.
THE ELECTORAL BACKGROUND
The problem can be extrapolated to what happens with the Billie Jean King Cup – the women’s version, former Federation Cup – and resonates these days with an electoral background. On September 24, the ITF elections will be held in Cancun, where two candidates will compete: that of Haggerty and that of the German Dietloff von Arnim.
The American, 65 years old and manager since 2015, will run for re-election defending that, despite everything, he and his team have been able to launch and provide stability to the new format. After the break with Kosmos, his board opted for the company Tennium to organize the group stage and the Finals (November 21 to 26).
Dietloff von Arnim, for his part, harshly criticizes the current operation and argues that “tennis has become fragmented,” instead of working in an associative manner. The 63-year-old German lawyer promotes “unity” while some undercurrents try to promote his candidacy by giving him presence in the media showcase.
In strictly competitive terms, those qualified for the Malaga event are: Canada, Italy, Australia, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Serbia, Finland and the Netherlands. On the last day, Spain scored a victory against South Korea (2-1) thanks to the victories of Bernabe Zapata (6-4 and 7-5 against Seong-Chan Hong) and Alejandro Davidovich (double 6-4 against Soon -Woo Kwon). The doubles team formed by Marcel Granollers and Albert Ramos lost to Ji-Sung Nam and Min-Kyu Song by 6-7(2), 7-6(6) and 10-8.
You can follow EL PAIS Deportes in Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
Source: EL PAIS