Davis Cup: Are The ITF Ignoring Their Own Players For Profit?

David Haggerty, president of the ITF (zimbio.com)

On Wednesday, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) revealed their latest radical plan with the creation of the World Cup of Tennis. An event in Geneva that will host both Davis and Fed Cup finals.

The proposed event, which will be voted for in August this year, is the latest bid by the governing body of tennis to rejuvenate the team competition. ITF president David Haggerty has said that ‘change is needed to ensure that we maximize the full potential of these iconic and historic competitions.’ Whilst change is welcomed in sport, critics have started to question how much say their own players have in the new developments.

A main sticking point in the new plan is the neutral venue idea, breaking away with the tradition of a country hosting their own Davis Cup final. In 2016 many players spoke against the move. Novak Djokovic, who is a member of the ATP players council, accused the ITF in November of not listening to them.

“The only thing that they (the ITF) wanted to change is the neutral final, I think for next year or the year after that, which, talking to all the players on the council, most of the players also around the tour, nobody agrees with that.” The world No.4 said.
“You’re taking away from the players the one thing that players love about Davis Cup, which is the home tie, the home crowd.”

Djokovic is not alone in the criticism, indicating a disparity between the ITF and their own players. Jamie Murray is also a member of the ATP Players Council. The world No.5 in doubles believes no attention were paid to the opinions of players by the ITF when debating the new venue changes.

“We gave our opinions and then the next day the message was ‘we are going ahead anyway’. Neutral final, that sort of stuff. I can tell you the players do not want that, but they are pushing ahead with it.” Murray said earlier this year.

The drive for change in the Davis Cup comes as the event struggle to consistently attract the top players. Many have admitted that it is tough for them to participate because of the scheduling of the tournament, which hasn’t been addressed by the ITF. The Davis Cup takes part at different stages throughout the year.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the duration of Davis Cup singles matches will be reduced from five sets to three. On the other hand, the doubles will still be played in five sets with the ties still taking place over three days.

The differences continue

When the latest changes were announced by the ITF, Haggerty was keen to empathise that his organisation consulted with others about the process. His argument is that the new development would ensure a higher standard of the hosting venue.

“We’ve consulted widely and listened carefully, and believe we will deliver an exceptional new event for fans, players and nations.” He stated.

Despite the claims, the critics continue to voice their opposition. Brazilian doubles player Bruno Soares accused the ITF of ‘killing’ the competition with their latest changes. The Davis Cup has been played for 117 years.

Australian player Sam Groth, who has played in eight Davis Cup ties since 2008, has also hit out.

The world of tennis is run like a business. Therefore the ITF wants to revamp the Davis Cup in order to generate more revenue and public interest. On the other hand, as the mood of players continues to deteriorate, it appears the risky move could be doing more harm than good.

More players are becoming dissatisfied with the running of the event. Not only does it appear that their opinions are being disregarded, the ITF has failed to tackle the main issue they have – the scheduling of the event. It is for this reason why the Davis Cup faces an uncertain future.

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