Davis Cup braces for an end of an era.
The Davis Cup could be transformed into a one-week, one-location, 18-nation World Cup of Tennis in a major overhaul aimed at enticing the best men’s players to play.
French Captain Yannick Noah, a Davis Cup icon who played in 61 matches for his country, has been very outspoken regarding his opinion of the tournament’s imminent rebranding – making this the last bilateral final ever played.
“Shame on all those players, leaders and media who have just sold the soul of the Davis Cup,” said Noah in August, after the member nations of the International Tennis Federation had voted for radical change by a 71% majority. “Sad day for tennis.”
As a result of the controversial vote in Orlando, the tournament will be structured differently as of next year.
The New Format
Sixteen nations compete in the World Group in knockout ties, while the remaining countries are divided into three regional zones.
It is played in February, April and September and November, with each World Group tie played over three days in a best-of-five tie of five-set matches.
Under the new format, which will start in 2019, 18 nations will compete in a week-long, round‑robin tournament.
The countries will be split into six groups with each group fixture comprising two singles and one doubles match, all over three sets.
The tie format will change too, consisting of three matches – two singles and one doubles match – each played over the best-of-three sets.
The new #DavisCup format will involve a qualifying round in February, in which 24 teams will take part in home and away matches – a key element of the Davis Cup’s heritage
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) August 16, 2018
Critics have started to call it the Kosmos Cup or Piqué Cup: references to the investment group headed by Gerard Piqué, Spain’s polymathic football star, that is largely bankrolling the revamped competition and intending to make a profit.
Officially, however, the competition will remain the Davis Cup, at least for the time being, with the champions still getting their mitts on one of the oldest and grandest trophies in global sports.
“I honestly don’t see it as the end of an era as much as I see it as the end of a chapter of a long book,” said David Haggerty, the president of the International Tennis Federation, which controls the Cup.
Haggerty, an American and the primary architect of the Cup changes, most likely will find the public disagrees when he takes his seat on Friday in Lille.
— Tomáš Berdych (@tomasberdych) August 17, 2018
The French captain, Yannick Noah, and his players were among the most vocal opponents of the new format, even though their federation voted in favour.
Still Confused? Here’s a Summary:
- Over the course of the year, 28 teams will compete in the revamped Davis Cup.
- These 28 teams are divided into three categories:
- Category 1 is the four semi-finalists from the previous year.
- Category 2 is the 12 teams that placed between 5th and 16th (those who failed to make it past the quarter-finals) the previous year.
- Category 3 is the 12 group winners from preliminary qualification (six Euro/Africa, 3 Asia/Oceania, 3 Americas).
- The tournament is separated into two stages:
- Qualification for the finals (Week 5 of the season)
- The finals (Week 47)
- Teams in category 1 are awarded a bye to the finals.
- Teams in categories 2 and 3 face one another in home and away ties. There are 12 ties and the winners progress to the finals.
- The 12 losers enter Group I of the preliminary qualification stage for next year. There are four groups at this stage.
- The finals consist of 18 teams: Category 1 teams; the 12 winners from the qualification stage; two wildcards
- The 18 teams are drawn into six groups of three. The group stage takes place between Monday and Thursday.
- The six group winners and the two best second-place teams qualify for the quarter-finals. The quarter-finals take place on Friday.
- The four quarter-finals winners go through to the semi-finals. The semi-finalists also qualify for next years finals stage and avoid the qualification process. The semi-finals take place on Saturday.
- The two semi-final winners face each other in the final for the Davis Cup. The final takes place on Sunday.
So why is it necessary to rebrand this historic competition which dates back all the way to 1900? ITF president David Haggerty says that Davis Cup finals are increasingly struggling for worldwide resonance – a point that is hard to deny.
Yet the critics are more concerned about the third party investment group Kosmos.
As one sceptical national-federation boss put it, “Kosmos showed up without a week in the calendar for their new-look finals plan, without any players on board, and without the financial guarantees to back up their splashy $3bn-over-25-years promises. Somehow, though, they got their new-look model through the vote in Orlando in August. The result is that the ITF have effectively handed over their biggest event.”
In France, the mood is mutinous, despite the possibility that Noah and his team could celebrate an 11th title this weekend.
“What could have prompted 71% of delegates to throw this 118-year-old lady overboard?” asked a furious editorial in L’Equipe.
“Money, of course. Always money… Not that the new competition deserves to call itself Davis Cup at all. ‘Tennis World Cup’ will do just fine.”