The team competitions of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup have struggled in recent times to keep the top tour players engaged, and not many would argue that an overhaul was needed to both competitions, in what is a packed schedule already.
Yet one thing that remained at the forefront of both players’ and fans’ minds was the need to keep the home/away tie aspect as that is fundamentally the essence and charm of the competition.
The suggestion to drop from five sets to three for the Davis Cup might make a little more sense, and the decision was made to keep the Saturday doubles where it was as a five set match, rather than move it to the end of a shortened two-day tie.
Why is a neutral venue such a problem?
But the real issue was the discussions to have a neutral venue – which universally no-one wanted, for may obvious reasons? Where would you have it to appeal to all the potential participating countries. Wuhan anyone? It was up there for consideration.
The reform package up for the vote at the ITF AGM in August will be to approve Geneva as the host for a combined Davis Cup and Fed Cup competition. Other changes could also include the Fed Cup semi-finals into the event, to allow the Fed Cup World group to expand from eight to 16 teams. The traditional home-and-away format will continue for all other rounds of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, and one of the reforms includes guaranteeing finalists from both competitions the choice of hosting their first-round tie in the following year.
There is no denying that the participation of the marquee players enhances the calendar but in a packed tour schedule, and this is not including the Olympics (also an ITF event), players find themselves spread thinly.
What does the ITF say?
ITF president David Haggerty said: “The creation of the World Cup of Tennis finals is at the heart of a series of reforms that represent the most significant changes in the history of Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. Change is needed to ensure that we maximise the full potential of these iconic and historic competitions. We’ve consulted widely and listened carefully, and believe we will deliver an exceptional new event for fans, players and nations.”
“Having a pre-selected venue will give the finals a fitting global platform, a model that has proved highly successful in other sports, such as the UEFA Champions League and NFL’s Super Bowl.”
He added: “By providing Geneva with a full year to organise and promote the event, it will be able to fully maximise the competition’s potential, elevating venue and hosting standards to a consistent Grand Slam level and delivering the very best athlete and fan experience.
“All six cities were highly capable and presented outstanding bids, and each would have been an excellent choice. In the end, the Board felt that Geneva offered the best conditions for hosting this exciting and innovative new event, and will deliver a truly world-class event.”
Fans are not happy either. Geneva is not the cheapest place in the world, and with the plans to make it a week-long event – a festival of tennis, if you will. No-one has said in any capacity that this is something they want to see or do.
No-one is saying that the reforms are not needed. Yet tennis could be the loser, if the crowds that make the atmosphere are not willing to travel.
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