TENNIS – Italy vs Great Britain. Italian top player Fabio Fognini, who has just moved to World Number 13 after reaching the fourth round at the Miami Master 1000, has been drawn to play the inaugural match of the David Cup World Group quarter final match against James Ward in Naples on Friday. Andy Murray will take on Andreas Seppi in the second singles match on Friday. Diego Sampaolo
The picturesque Tennis Club Napoli in the Rotonda Diaz will play host to the eagerly-awaited Davis Cup quarter final between Italy and Great Britain. Both teams are aiming to return to the semifinals after many years of absence among the best four tennis nations in the world.
The Italian team will be looking to reach their first seminal since 1998, the year in which they lost the final against Sweden in Milan.
Great Britain will be bidding to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1981.
Clay specialist Fognini, who reached the Monte-Carlo semifinal last year and won in Vina del Mar in 2014, will be the favourite against British Number 3 Ward who is ranked World Number 161 in the opening rubber. Fognini and Ward will meet for the first time in their careers.
Fognini starts as the favourite but he suffered from a left quad muscle injury during his last match against Rafa Nadal in the fourth round Miami Master 1000 last month. Fognini, who was the Italian hero in the first round win against Argentina earlier this year, reassured his fans ahead of his Friday match. “I feel great. I was a little bit tired and felt some pain in the legs but I am now feeling much better. I have had more than one week to recover. I know Ward pretty well. It will be tough because I will play the first match”, said Fognini.
British captain Leon Smith has chosen Ward over British Number 2 Dan Evans who reached the third round last year at the US Open and the semifinal in Zagreb last February. However Ward scored a five-set win over US Sam Querrey, a higher ranked player than him, in the first round match between the USA and Great Britain on clay in San Diego and cannot be underestimated by the Italian team.
British Number 1 Andy Murray suffered from a stomach bug on Wednesday but should the British team are confident for his match against World Number 34 Andreas Seppi. Murray, who underwent back surgery last autumn, reached the quarter final at the Australian Open (losing to Roger Federer), the semifinal (losing to Grigor Dimitrov) and the quarter final in Miami where he showed improving form despite the defeat against Nole Djokovic In the first round match against the USA in San Diego Murray won his two singles matches against Donald Young and Sam Querrey.
“Andy has got some sort of virus which has made him feel pretty poorly over the last 24 hours. It’s important to give him a lot of rest and recovery. That’s why he did not attend the draw ceremony. Hopefully he can be fit and play a big part in the weekend, which I am sure he will. He is a fighter and obviously desperate to play so it looks like he will be OK”, said Leon Smith.
Murray met Seppi six times in the ATP circuit and won five times. The Scotsman has won their last five matches in two sets and won their only match on clay at the 2010 Internazionali d’Italia in Rome with the scoreline of 6-2 6-4.
Murray has already played in the Tennis Club Napoli in 2005 when he lost to Julio Silva in a Challenger Tournament.
Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins are expected to play Saturday’s doubles match against the Italian team formed by doubles specialist Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi (finalist in Sao Paulo this year). However Murray could be chosen to play the doubles instead of Hutchins and Fognini could team up with Bolelli.
Fleming teamed up with Murray to take the decisive doubles match win against Croatia in the Davis Cup Play-Off last September.
Hutchins provides the big story of the match as he returns to represent the British team in the Davis Cup for the first time since 2012 after recovering from Hodgkin lymphoma last year.
In Sunday’s reverse matches Murray has been drawn to play against Fognini and Seppi will play against Ward.
Italy leads 11-4 in the previous 15 Davis Cup matches. Their first match dates back to 1922 when Great Britain won on home soil at Roehampton. Fred Perry and Bunny Austin scored the last British win for almost 40 years back in 1933. Italy scored eight consecutive wins between 1950 and 1970. Both teams met for the last time in the Davis Cup in 1984 in Telford. On that occasion Italian Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti won the fifth and decisive rubber match.
The match between Italy and Great Britain is expected to be a balanced match. The home team start as slight favourite as they play on their favourite clay surface in front of Italian fans The British team can rely on former World Number 3 Andy Murray but he is the only top-100 player in his team but everything can happen in the Davis Cup where rankings do not matter too much. For the Italian team it will be important to win both singles matches against the British Number 2 and the doubles to have the chance to reach the semifinal. The warm support from the Naples crowd could be a factor.
“We play on clay court, which is not the surface maybe Great Britain like more. Andy Murray is the last Wimbledon champion and is one of the best players in the world, so i twill be a tough match. We need to play well”, said Corrado Barazzutti.
Weather forecast for this weekend are pretty poor and there is a distinct possibility that the Naples match will be prolonged until Monday.
The winner of the Naples match will face either Switzerland or Kazakhstan who will square off against in Geneva. It would be a mouth-watering prospect for both teams to face a potential semifinal against the Swiss team featuring two top-4 players Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer. In their last meeting the Asian team won 5-0 against Switzerland in 2010 but this time the Swiss team are strong favourites in front of their fans. This year’s Australian Open champion Wawrinka will play the inaugural match against Andrey Golubev and 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer will take on Kazakh Number 1 Michail Kukushkin in Friday’s second match. Federer and Wawrinka are expected to play the doubles match against Evgeny Korolev and Aleksander Nedovyesev on Saturday.
Is Covid-19 Just An Excuse To Axe The 2020 Davis Cup Finals?
The decision to cancel the team event five months before it was set to start may be more complex than what officials are letting on.
On Friday the International Tennis Federation issued a statement to confirm that their two premier tennis team events will not be taking place this year.
The Davis Cup and Fed Cup tournaments have been delayed until 2021 due to the global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Davis Cup, it is only the 12th time in history a season has ended without a champion being decided since its birth in 1900 and the first since 1945. The teams that have qualified for the week-long finals this year will instead have to wait until November 2021 to battle it out for the title.
“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”
There are however some questions over why the ITF has made this announcement five months before the start of the tournament. Especially when both the ATP and WTA Tours are set to restart in August. Furthermore Madrid, where this year’s finals were scheduled to take place, will still host their premier combined event at the Caja Magica in September.
“It’s the inconsistencies that I find tedious. Two months before the Davis Cup was meant to be playing we are playing at the same venue in Madrid for the masters. In regards to the crowds there seemed to be a fair bit of social distancing at this event last year,” John Millman wrote on Twitter.
It appears that there could be a more substantial financial reason to postpone the Kosmos-backed event. Investment company Kosmos was founded by Gerard Pique and has pledged millions into the Davis Cup in a deal to help revamp it. French newspaper L’Equipe have quoted sources reporting that the event lost an astonishing 50 million euros in 2019, which was the first year where the new format took place. Furthermore, it has been reported that the decision to scrap November’s event will help save 18 million euros.
Furthermore, one senior figure at Tennis Canada has suggested that Pique had tried to do everything he could to prevent the tournament from taking place. Louis Borfiga, who serves as his country’s Vice President of High Performance, said he believes there has been no meetings with the federations prior to Friday’s announcement.
“While everyone is doing everything possible to try to replay, I have the impression that Piqué did everything to prevent the Davis Cup from taking place this year,” he said in a separate interview with L’Equipe.
“ They (Kosmos leaders) put forward health reasons, I hope they are the right ones. They are going to have the right role. There is nothing we can say about health.”
“When I read the official press release, I am surprised by one thing. It is Piqué who speaks first, and the president of the ITF (David Haggerty) after. That too is shocking.” He added.
Borfiga is not alone in this view. Back in March tennis player Nicola Mahut criticised Pique for not being more optimistic about holding the finals this year. The Spaniard had previously said he was ‘pessimistic’ about having the event without fans.
“The message he sent through his statements is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it will be cancelled and he will save some money.” Mahut commented.
According to Diario AS, the Madrid economy will lose in the region of 50 million euros due to the finals not being held. Furthermore, it is estimated that 600 jobs would have been created to support the running of the tournament from start to finish.
Gerard Pique’s Pessimistic Davis Cup Outlook Blasted By French Tennis Star
The football player has been urged to ‘put more energy’ in finding a solution for the event to take place in 2020.
Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has come under fire over his plans for the Davis Cup Finals later this year after recently casting doubt on the event taking place due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Pique, whose company helped finance the transformation of the 120-year-old team competition, recently admitted that he was doubtful that the event could go ahead if crowds weren’t allowed to attend. Last year was the first time the new format of the competition took place with 18 teams featuring in a week-long round-robin tournament which was won by host nation Spain.
“I’m a bit pessimistic, to have the Davis Cup with no fans is difficult,” Pique told Movistar.
“There is a lot of uncertainty. We are listening to what the sport’s ministry and the government are telling us about whether we’ll have the ability to have fans.”
All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic. Officials are hoping to be able to get the sport going again in August ahead of the US Open that is scheduled to take place. Although some have doubts about the chances of the Tour’s starting by then, including world No.43 John Millman.
Amid the ongoing uncertainty, French tennis star Nicolas Mahut has criticized Pique’s bleak outlook for this year’s Davis Cup finale. The 38-year-old has represented his country in 13 ties, including the 2018 final as well as the semifinals in two other years.
“We don’t have a lot of information. But as a player, you can just trust the official statements. And when I hear Pique, I’m extremely disappointed,” Mahut told L’Equipe.
Mahut has called on Pique to explore more options such as potentially relocating the event to another country if it would make it safer for the event to go ahead. Implying that he was his duty to do so after setting ‘to destroy the formula’ of the event. Critics of the revamp have accused Pique of ruining the traditional competition.
“I would like him to put as much energy into saving the Davis Cup that he has set up. That is to say, to find solutions for it to take place in Madrid or elsewhere, as he has set to destroy the formula that had been in place for over a hundred years,” he said,
“The message he sent through his statements, is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it cancels and I save some money. ” And it bothers me a lot compared to what has happened for more than a year. We don’t play with this competition. Maybe that suits it.”
Kosmos has signed a $3 billion 25-year deal with the ITF to acquire the rights for the Davis Cup Finals.
Davis Cup Finals In Doubt, Admits Gerard Pique
The Kosmos founder explains why he isn’t too optimistic about the team event going ahead later this year.
The chances of this year’s Davis Cup Finals taking place are still up in the air with one of the key figures involved in the competition openly saying that he is ‘pessimistic’ about its chances.
Football star Gerard Pique is one the driving forces behind the new format following a huge financial investment from his company Kosmos. Signing a 25-year deal with the International Tennis Federation worth in the region of $3 billion. Despite the significant investment, Pique admits that he has low hopes of the event taking place later this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All professional tennis tournaments have been halted since March.
“There is a lot of uncertainty, we try to be aware of what the government says regarding sports and to whether we can put spectators inside the Caja Magica,” Pique said during an interview with Movistar.
“I would say I am a bit pessimistic, because a Davis Cup without fans is difficult.
“I think that nobody at the moment has the certainty that we can put fans in or if it will have to be behind closed doors. As the days go by, I suppose we will have a little more clarity.”
Spain is currently in the process of relaxing some of their lockdown restrictions with tennis players being able to train at local facilities from next week. The country is following a four-stage plan with the hope that their premier La Liga football league will resume next month at some stage.
However, the issue for the Davis Cup is the limited number of fans that would be able to go to the tournament if it takes place. In more advanced stages of the plans, no more than 50 people can attend an indoor venue. Although the number could be increased by November, it will be a stark difference to 2019. Held at the Caja Magica, the total capacity of the premier court is 12,500 people.
Last year’s final saw Spain lift the title for the first time since 2011 after they defeated Canada in the final. The two teams are seeded third and sixth in this year’s draw.
The Davis Cup is scheduled to take place between November 23-29 in Madrid. The ATP, WTA and ITF will not restart their Tour’s until at least July 13th, however, there is speculation that the suspension will be extended in the coming weeks.
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