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.
EXCLUSIVE Interview With US Davis Cup Captain Mardy Fish: “If Davis Cup Fails, We All Fail”
Mardy Fish takes the reins of the US Davis Cup team and feels very strongly about the new format for the competition: “If you love Davis Cup you have to support it, even with this format”
After Jim Courier’s resignation from the role of US Davis Cup Captain last September after the defeat in the 2018 semifinal against Croatia, the USTA decided to take their time and make some changes to the duties required by the role. Following Courier’s suggestion that “the new captain should be someone closer in age to the players”, the United States Tennis Association decided to trust former world no.7 Mardy Fish with this important responsibility, also making him a key figure in the Player Development Program, expanding the role of captain into a year-round presence at tournaments around the world to provide a bigger support to players.
While we were covering the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Mardy found the time to talk to Ubitennis over the phone from his house in California and provided some insight into this new adventure for him.
What can you tell us about your first few months in your new role?
It’s been a fun few months, adjusting from the role of peer to the other players to that of captain. I have found a lot of respect towards me from the other players and this is obviously a great thing. I have always been a huge fan of Davis Cup, I have always said yes whenever I had the opportunity to play it, and it’s an honor to be in this role.
You retired a few years ago from professional tennis: how do you feel about getting back on the road now that your life is structured in a different way?
My life at home has been quite established, with my wife and my two kids, but I have been doing a bit of personal traveling for some exhibitions and for golfing. This role will not require a lot of traveling, I will just do what I need to create some camaraderie in the team: I have spent a few days in Indian Wells, from Tuesday to Saturday, I will be a few days in Miami, then I won’t be around much for the European season and I will travel again to tournaments in the summer. I just need the players to know that they have my support and the support of the USTA if it’s needed.
What do you think about the new formula for the Davis Cup?
I think it’s too early to tell right now, we will find out how it goes. On paper the formula sounds awesome, the time was right for a change, although I’m not sure if it was necessary to make it as drastic as this. I know there are some people that feel very strongly against this new formula, but this means that people are passionate about Davis Cup, they really care about it.
The date in the calendar for the Finals is quite tough though. But at the end of the day, if it’s Davis Cup the majority of players will find a way to participate and I’m convinced we will get an excellent field.
As far as the US Team is concerned, I don’t foresee any availability issue from our players, especially the younger ones: they are very excited about playing for the USA, the National Team is in a lot of conversations among our players. I can’s speak for other countries, I know some of them have pledged not to play with the new format, but what we need to remember is that we are all responsible for Davis Cup: if Davis Cup fails, we all fail, we are all together on the same boat. For example, the Australian players are all very passionate about Davis Cup, they love it, and that is fantastic. But if they don’t support it, it’s not going to work.
With the new formula, a team getting to the final will need to play six ties in seven days: how important do you think it will be to have a ‘long bench’?
I think it will be important to bring players who play only singles and other players who play only doubles. I believe that teams that only have one or two players, as it could be for Russia, and relying on them to play both singles and doubles could get into a bit of a situation should they get to the business end of the competition, because their players may get there quite tired. We are lucky in that sense because we can have someone like Jack Sock who could play doubles leaving the singles guys free to worry about the singles.
Tennis politics have recently made the headlines with Chris Kermode not being renewed as the ATP CEO. What is your take on this?
I have spoken to some of the guys who are in the Players’ Council and once again I need to stress that they do what they do because they act with passion. They are passionate about tennis, they act out of love for the game even if their ranking is not high. I know Kermode personally from when he was the Tournament Directors at the Queen’s Tournament and everything was perfect for me; I don’t have direct experience with him at the helm of the ATP, I had already retired when he took the reins of the organization.
A few weeks ago the ITF decided the composition of the Round Robin phase of the Davis Cup Final and the US team will be in the same group as Italy and Canada. Can you tell us about these teams?
Well, Canada has the right mix of experience and youth: Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime are going to be there for a long time, and Milos [Raonic] will be able to give them all the support they need. Similarly, Italy has an established core of players such as Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi that will be supplemented by Marco Cecchinato, whom I know him anyway because he is was my opponent in my last match ever at the US Open.
I am very confident about our chances in this group: we have three top 60 players who are still 21 years old or younger, who are Tiafoe, Fritz and Opelka. Tiafoe has just reached the Quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and that’s not a result that you can improvise, you need to beat good players to get there. They will be the core of our team for the years to come, and they will be helped by more established veterans like John [Isner] or Sam [Querrey].
BNP Paribas Ends Their 17 Year Sponsorship With Davis Cup
BNP Paribas will no longer sponsor the Davis Cup after 17 years.
BNP Paribas have ended their 17 year title sponsorship with the Davis Cup as they rebrand to the world cup of tennis.
The move was announced in a press release as BNP Paribas look to focus on sponsoring the Fed Cup as well as the junior and wheelchair events.
It is clear that the move has been finalised due to the Davis Cup’s new 18 team format which will be tested in November this year in Madrid.
Although there has been criticism of the new event this is the first time a sponsorship has been dropped from the Davis Cup and the banking company’s intent.
Head of communications, Bertrand Cizeau, explained his decision, “We decided with the ITF to conclude the ‘Davis Cup by BNP Paribas’ partnership as the competition format evolves,” Cizeau explained.
“During 17 years, we have been happy alongside fans, players and local audiences, all around the world, and to have fuelled their passion during unforgettable matches.”
The move is certainly stunning to the ITF but their president David Haggerty did thank BNP Paribas for their contribution, “BNP Paribas has made a vast contribution to the success of the Davis Cup as a title sponsor over the past 17 years,” Haggerty said.
“We are proud of the great work we have achieved together for Davis Cup, and we look forward to continuing our relationship across a number of properties from the grassroots to the top of the game.”
The dedicated partner will continue to work with the ITF with a variety of schemes and projects including developing the Junior and Wheelchair events.
However with talk of a 12 team Fed Cup event similar to the Davis Cup one, would BNP Paribas stop its partnership with the Fed Cup and how would that impact the ITF?
As for David Haggerty he will now aim to rebrand the competition into the ‘Davis Cup, World Cup Of Tennis,’ as many see this as a significant change in the history of the competition that has now gone on for 118 years.
Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Asks For Patience Ahead Of November Edition
Davis Cup Finals tournament director Albert Costa is asking for patience as he believes the tournament will be an overwhelming success
Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Albert Costa has asked fans for their patience ahead of November’s edition.
The new format will see 18 teams compete in Madrid in November for the Davis Cup trophy with many people criticising the reforms.
However tournament director Albert Costa has asked tennis fans for patience as he believes in time the Finals will be a success, “After all, it’s one of the great competitions in the world of sports, very attractive, unique and novel for everyone, and for the players it will be a very attractive format,” Costa explained in an interview with Radio Marca.
“I do not see that it will go wrong, people have many expectations, that the first year is complicated and there may be some doubt, but I think it will be a success, I have no doubt. It comes out as we hope we will have patience and we will organize the second edition in a better way, but we do not contemplate that it does not go well.”
The Spaniard is also looking ahead to the future and is in current discussion to make the Fed Cup a combined event with the Davis Cup in the future, “The Federation Cup is a two-year project, we will see if it is viable, but we have it in our heads,” Costa explained.
“We are still negotiating and talking with the ATP to do a joint event and then a larger one of men and women, it is a project but it is not a reality yet. There are opinions for everyone, the changes always generate doubts and we have to show that the competition is attractive to everyone.”
The Davis Cup Finals takes place on the 18th-24th of November with a weakened field expected as Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev will all not participate in Madrid.
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