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.
Gerard Pique Responds To Criticism From Lleyton Hewitt Over His Involvement In Davis Cup
The 32-year-old is hoping that he can prove critics wrong with the new controversial format.
Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has told The Daily Mail he ‘respects’ the opinion of Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, despite being heavily criticised by the former world No.1.
Pique is the head of the company that is overseeing the transformation of the Davis Cup. Later this year 18 teams will play in a week-long showdown that has been dubbed the ‘World Cup’ of tennis. The revamp, who was approved by a vote last August, has divided opinion within the sport. Australia has been one of the most vocal critics of the revamp with Hewitt taking aim at Pique last month.
“Now we’re getting run by a Spanish football player, which is like me come out and asking to change things for the Champions League,” Hewitt told reporters. “He knows nothing about tennis.”
Responding to the comment for the first time, Pique has tried to cool down the argument. Stating that he has no intention of ‘changing the rules of tennis.’ Although under the new format, Davis Cup matches are now best-of-three sets and the finals will see three matches played per tie instead of five.
“I respect the opinion of Lleyton, he was a great player. What I can say is that while I’m the President of Kosmos we are full of people who know tennis, people like Albert Costa, who has won a Grand Slam.” Pique told The Daily Mail.
“I can understand that when a footballer comes in the tennis world it can seem a little bit awkward or strange, but at the end of the day I’m not going to be changing the rules of tennis. I understand that I’m the new one here and I try to understand everyone. In the time we are living now it is easy to say whatever you think. If it’s with respect it’s fine.”
Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion into the new competition over the next 25 years. Their backers include Indian Wells Masters owner Larry Ellison, Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani and even football superstar Lionel Messi. As a result of Ellison’s involvement, Indian Wells have been mentioned as a strong candidate to hold the Davis Cup finals in the future. Although the logistics may be hard if the ATP Finals continues to be held in London. In the current schedule, the Davis Cup finale takes place straight after the ATP Finals.
“It is something we are talking about and it’s a possibility,” Pique commented about Indian Wells as a venue.
“You have pros and cons, we chose Madrid because it’s next to London. Indian Wells is far away but the facilities are incredible.”
Due to the involvement of the Barcelona F.C. footballer, the competition is referred by some as the ‘Pique Cup.’ Something that doesn’t go down too well with the 32-year-old.
“I hate it, because it’s not about me and I don’t want my name on the competition,” he said. “Davis Cup history is so big. I hope we can change this opinion. After a few years I hope they go back and say “We were wrong, Davis Cup is more alive than ever.”
The Davis Cup finals will be played between November 18-24.
ITF, Kosmos Confident Controversial Davis Cup Revamp Will Be A Hit As Draw Is Unveiled
The groups for the the finals of the team tournament has been decided with ITF President Davis Haggerty describing the event as ‘traditional, whilst having innovation.’
The draw has taken place for the inaugural Davis Cup finals with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reiterating their support for the controversial new format.
On Thursday evening, 18 teams learned which group they have been placed in during a special ceremony in Madrid. In November 18 teams will participate in a week-long tournament held at the Caja Magica in what will be a historic change to the competition. The changes have been made after the plans was voted for in August by the majority of national tennis federations (71%). Although critics argue the change is too radical and kills the Davis Cup. There has also been heavy criticism regarding the decision to hold the finals at a neutral venue.
“Davis Cup is all about keeping tradition whilst having innovation at the same time.” Said ITF President David Haggerty.
“All of us have a special place in your heart for the Davis Cup, we all care about it. But where we are going with the Davis Cup is going to elevate it and make it better.” He later added.
There will be a total of six groups in the finals with three teams featuring in each one. Reigning champions Croatia has been placed alongside home favourites Spain and Russia. France, who were runners-up in 2018, will take on Serbia and Japan. Meanwhile, wild card entrants Great Britain has been given a favourable group alongside Kazakhstan and the Netherlands. The winner of each group and the two best second placed countries will progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Group A: France, Serbia, Japan
Group B: Croatia, Spain, Russia
Group C: Argentina, Germany, Chile
Group D: Belgium, Australia, Colombia
Group E: Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Netherlands
Group F: US, Italy, Canada
Overseeing the competition is investment firm Kosmos, whose 25-year $3 billion investment was pivotal is changing the Davis Cup. The company was founded by Barcelona F.C. footballer Gerard Pique. Who has generated both admiration and hate from the tennis community in recent months. Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt recently told reporters, ‘Now we’re getting run by a Spanish football player, which is like me come out and asking to change things for the Champions League.’
“I have been a fan of tennis since I was a kid. I saw the Davis Cup as an opportunity for a competition that can be great in the future.” Pique said in Spanish during the draw ceremony.
“I think we (Kosmos) are a great partner for the ITF to organise this competition and we truly believe that in the future, starting from this year, it will get better and better.”
Whilst there is enthusiasm, winning over die hard fans is proving to be a harder than expected. ITF chief Haggerty was questioned about the critics during the presentation, but refused to let it overshadow proceedings.
“I would encourage those people who are concerned about it to come to Madrid and see for yourselves.” He said.
The Davis Cup finals will take place between 18-24 November. All ties will consist of two singles matches and one in the doubles. All matches will be best-of-three sets.
Davis Cup Finals schedule
|Day||Round||Number of teams|
|18–21 Nov (Monday–Thursday)||Round Robin||18 (6 groups of 3 teams)|
|22 Nov (Friday)||Quarterfinals||8 (6 group winners + 2 best second place)|
|23 Nov (Saturday)||Semifinals||4 (automatically qualified for 2020 Davis Cup Finals)|
|24 Nov (Sunday)||Final||2|
Poland To Take ITF To Court In Row Over Davis Cup Rankings As Other Nations Voice Anger
A fresh row is brewing in the world of tennis after a series of tennis federations in recent days have expressed their displeasure with the new ranking system for the Davis Cup.
The Polish Tennis Federation (PZT) has announced that they are to launch an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the wake of the new system that has been implemented in the Davis Cup.
A change to the Davis Cup ranking system this year has resulted in the Polish team being placed in World Group III. Even though they scored wins over Romania, Slovenia and Zimbabwe last year to qualify for Group I under the old system. The reason why they have been regulated back to the third group is because the new Kosmos-backed competition takes into account points won over the past four years. Something that has outraged the PZT and their players.
“As the PZT management board, we will fight to return where we should be.” Vice-president Victor Archutowski told the Polish Press Agency.
“We are at the stage of choosing a law firm that will handle the appeal that we will send to CAS. We have already prepared documentation. We will fight. We have interviewed ITF members that give little hope. We should know their answer within two weeks.”
The Federation are appealing for their team to be reinstated back into Group I. If that fails, they will be claiming for compensation from the International Tennis Federation for their players who will have to player in the lower group. The PZT has ruled out the possibility of a boycott because of the impact it could have on the Olympic qualification process for their players.
“We were thinking about setting up a substitute squad, but the players are obliged to perform in them in order to be able to play in the Olympic games afterwards.” Explained Archutowski.
“Next year, we could have had a Davis Cup match in Tokyo, so if they did not play now, we would block them from joining the Olympic tournament.”
Support From allies
In the wake of the ranking system, other countries have also expressed their anger over the current situation. Calude Lamberty, who is the president of Tennis Luxembourg, has sent a formal letter to the ITF. In it, the federation said they ‘disagreed’ and was ‘disappointed’ by the new system. Pledging their full support behind Poland. The letter has also been signed by the national director of the Davis Cup, Markus Stegmann.
“The system applied, depending exclusively on the nations ranking, is at least in our appreciation against all sports principles. In the play-off tie last year in April, our team won against the Georgian team and achieved by that, according to Davis Cup rules, to stay in Group II. Now, after the qualifiers for the world finals, our team is, despite this sporting achievement last year, related to Group III and Georgia, who should have been relegated considering the results of last year, remains instead of Luxemburg in Group II. Even worse is the case of Poland, which gets relegated to Group III instead of going up into Group I.” An extract from the letter reads.
Monaco’s chief representative in the sport has branded the changes as ‘sportingly unacceptable.’ Elizabeth-Ann de Me Massy, who is the president of her national tennis association, says the new format has a negative impact on both players and fans.
The I.T.F. is very performant and productive as far as accumulating actions and decisions which is killing the Davis Cup, one of the most prestigious worldwide Tennis Competition with almost 120 years of History. Now, the new rules concerning the different group levels of the 2019 format are just sportingly unacceptable.
It will be more and more difficult for players and sponsors to keep their motivation and for the fans their enthusiasm. The Monaco Tennis Federation stands fully by other federations facing the same issue: Luxembourg, Poland, Montenegro, Estonia, Namibia and Kenya.
Outside of Europe, there is also frustration in other countries. Last June Kenya won the Africa Group III championship. Booking their place in the Euro/Africa Group II group at the time. However, following the Davis Cup revamp they are not ranked high enough to play in the group they have technically qualified for in 2018. Kenya believes that have a disadvantage before they were unable to field a team to play in the 2015 team event. Therefore they were unable to get any points.
“We are very disappointed since we didn’t know the changes adopted at the AGM would affect the Davis Cup format in 2019,” Tennis Kenya chairman James Kenani told The Daily Nation. “It’s demoralising to countries even if the prize money in Davis Cup has been increased.”
Kenani has said that both Kenya and Poland launched an appeal to the ITF Arbitration Committee, but it was rejected. Kenya had already put in place a budget of roughly Sh8.7 million for their team to play in Euro/Africa Group II.
“Alternatively, the changes should have come into effect after 2019 since teams had already qualified in 2018. You can’t punish countries who had invested their energies to qualify because a new sponsor has come on board,” Kenani argues. “They say countries are bound to benefit immensely but that is not how to manage events.”
Like Kenya, Namibia are also in the same situation after finishing runners-up in Africa Group III last year.
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