Davis Cup announces divisive proposals

The Davis Cup is now dead. The ITF have killed one of the best tennis tournaments in the world with their new proposals which will come into effect next year. Quite understandably, the changes have caused a huge divide between current and ex-players.

The good news is that the final proposals haven’t been approved yet, with a two-thirds majority needed at the ITF annual general meeting in August.

The changes put forward are part of a new 25-year, $3 billion plan with an investment group founded by footballer Gerard Pique. Specifically, it will involve having the whole tournament played over just one week every year, when the Davis Cup final would usually be held.

The event would be run on a round-robin format before a knockout phase, with matches consisting of two singles and one doubles rubber. Matches will be played over the best-of-three sets. The 16 World Group nations will automatically qualify for the finals, with a further two nations to be selected.

However, the biggest problem with the new format is that it will all be held at one venue. This takes away what makes the Davis Cup such a special and prestigious tournament. Losing this is what has made fans so angry as it gets rid of the atmosphere of home ties.

Despite the clear need for change due to the lack of top players participating, is this really the answer? It may make sense in practical and financial terms, but it will destroy the atmosphere.

Perhaps holding it every two years with the newly proposed format will help it to survive. Former professional tennis player Mardy Fish agreed with this in a debate he had on Twitter with current professional Jurgen Melzer.

With more countries participating at the same venue, there will be fewer tickets available to fans. This will reduce the amount of vocal support they give which makes the Davis Cup so iconic.

The main supporters group for the Great Britain Davis Cup team is the Stirling Uni Barmy Army, who follow the team in every match from Serbia to Canada. They held a poll on their Twitter feed asking what their followers thought of the new proposals. An overwhelming 86% said they were “awful”.

Andy Murray’s former coach Amelie Mauresmo has described the proposals as “a death sentence for this competition”, 2017 Davis Cup winner Nicolas Mahut said they had “killed the Davis Cup” and former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash characterised the move as “un-f**king-believable, and you can keep the expletive in”.

However, current top professionals who may otherwise sit out Davis Cup matches are thought to be positive about the changes with Rafael Nadal being quoted by Spanish newspaper Marca as saying: “It’s a good initiative and it could work.”

The only way to find out if this is going to work is to trial it and see how fans and players react to the new format. If it helps the competition to attract better players and helps to prolong the tournament, then it will be a positive change albeit with a detrimental impact on the atmosphere. However, Fish’s idea of having it every two years would improve it even more. The legacy of one of the most unique tennis tournaments in the world stands on a knife-edge. This has to work.
Edited by Jacob Panons.

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