TENNIS DAVIS CUP – A scintillating first day to the opening round of the Davis Cup’s World Group has gone to prove that anything can happen in this competition. Bruno Bergareche Sans
A scintillating first day to the opening round of the Davis Cup’s World Group has gone to prove that anything can happen in this competition.
In Frankfurt, France dealt Germany a tough blow in a tie of two classic Davis Cup nations. Gilles Simon put the visitors ahead with another of his gutsy performances, edging past Jan-Lennard Struff 10/8 in the deciding set. The German players and crowd couldn’t recover from such a mammoth blow and Gael Monfils ensured they didn’t get any momentum going by not giving Philipp Kohlchreiber a chance, brushing past the classy German in three straight sets. The baton now passes on to Benjamin Becker and Andre Begemann who have the task of keeping this tie alive when they take on the strong doubles pairing of Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut tomorrow.
One of the big surprises of the day came in Ostrava, where 2012 and 2013 champions, the Czech Republic, face an uphill battle if they want to continue their run in this year’s edition after falling behind 2-0 to Australia. Without their instrumental duo of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, the Czechs couldn’t match an exciting young Aussie team and find themselves against the ropes. Kokkinakis pulled off the big upset of the day by defeating local favourite Lukas Rosol in five close sets after going two sets to love down. Bernard Tomic made the most of the wave his teammate had created to surf past Jiri Vesely in straight sets. Tomorrow Jan Mertl and Adam Pavlasek square off with Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth to decide whether the tie continues into Sunday or reached its finale with the doubles rubber.
Italy recovered from a shaky start in Astana to level things out with Kazakhstan. The much-criticized ‘Russian’ Kazakh side got the day off on the right foot as Mikhail Kukushkin blasted past Simone Bolelli with his heavy hitting, taking the win 7/6 6/1 6/2. Andreas Seppi got his country back in it though with a solid four set win against the dangerous Andrey Golubev. Golubev and Nedovyesov are scheduled to play Fogning and Lorenzi in tomorrow’s doubles although it will be remained to be seen if Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti opts for Australian Open champions Fognini and Bolelli.
A huge rivalry is taking place in Buenos Aires between Argentina and Brazil. In footballing terms it couldn’t come any bigger than this, but the fact is whether it is football, tennis or chess, Argentines and Brazilians have no love lost. So it is almost fitting that the two South American nations head into tomorrow’s doubles all square. Red-hot Joao Souza silenced the crowd momentarily in the opening rubber after ultimately fending off Carlos Berlocq 6/2 in the deciding set. In a reversal of roles, Brazil’s number 1 of the past years Thomaz Bellucci stepped to the court as a very strong number 2 and you could forgive Brazilians for being optimistic (more so after defeating the mighty Spain to book their tickets in the World Group). But Leo Mayer had no intentions of letting his proud nation receive such a bitter blow and fired 38 winners past Bellucci en route to a four set win. Brazil head into the doubles rubber as favourites as Melo/Soares face Schwartzmann/Delbonis.
Talking of rivalries, they don’t get much bigger than Serbia v Croatia. Defeating a side including Djokovic is always going to be a big ask. Attempting it without Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic makes it that little bit tougher. Djokovic did his part with an emphatic straight sets win over Mate Delic. But Croatia almost levelled things through their emerging young star Borna Coric, fresh from a great run in Dubai which included a battering of Andy Murray. Coric sailed to a two set lead against Troicki but ran out of gas as the Serbian sailed to a comfortable 6/1 win in the fifth set. Troicki/Zimonjic face Draganja/Skugor in tomorrow’s doubles.
On paper, the weakest tie of the opening round of the World Group is taking place in Liege. With Wawrinka and Federer absent, Belgium are expected to roll over Switzerland into the quarter finals but Henri Laaksonen had a couple of things to say about that. With a ranking of 344, the young Swiss player pulled of one of the shock of the day after recovering from a two set deficit to defeat Ruben Bemelmans. Steve Darcis returned things to normality after only dropping seven games in his win against Michael Lammer. Bemelmans/Desein face Bossel/Lammer in tomorrow’s doubles.
Davis Cup Finals To Be Extended To 11 Days But With Fewer Teams
One of the oldest tennis events in the world will be changed once again.
The International Tennis Federation has approved a series of changes for the prestigious Davis Cup competition with the option of a multi-city finale on the cards.
In a bid to ‘ease the burden on players’ the ITF Board has extended the length of the Davis Cup finals from seven to 11 days. The move comes following the inaugural competition in 2019 when some ties went on until as late as 4am due to the scheduling. As a result of the change, this year’s finale is set to take place between November 25th – December 5th. Meaning that the competition will eat more into the off-season which players use to train for the following year.
Furthermore, from 2022 the number of teams playing in the finals will be reduced from 18 to 16. This year’s field will remain unchanged as the teams have already been decided. Both of these proposals were put forward by Kosmos, who is the main financial backer of the competition.
“We recognise that the most successful tournaments adapt and evolve over time, and while the inaugural Davis Cup Finals delivered fantastic tennis, it also provided some learnings,” tournament director Albert Costa said in a statement.
“We are committed to a long-term vision for this historic competition and are confident these adjustments will enhance the experience for players and fans.”
Discussions are also underway over the possibility of making the end-of-season team showdown a multi-city event. Kosmos wants to expand the number of hosts from one to three. Although details about how this will be done have not been disclosed and the ITF are yet to approve it. Supporters of the idea argue that it will make the event appeal to a wider audience.
“With large stadiums providing show courts for all ties, the introduction of a multi-city event will bring the competition to the widest possible audience, while we will also be able to ease the burden on players with improvements to the scheduling. Crucially, a revised schedule will allow us to avoid late finishes while providing more rest for players,” Costa commented.
Should the multi-city idea get the green light, Madrid will still host both the semi-finals and final of the event. Meanwhile the other two cities would each stage two group stages and one quarter-final. Interestingly Kosmos Tennis has already launched a bid to find cities despite their proposal not being approved yet.
The Davis Cup Finals will return later this year after the 2020 edition was forced to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain are the reigning champions.
Viktor Troicki Set For Key Davis Cup Role
The 34-year-old will continue his playing career in 2021 but is also likely to take on a top coaching position in his country.
Former world No.12 Viktor Troicki is likely to become the new captain of the Serbian Davis Cup team next year, according to various news sources.
Kurir newspaper has reported that the 34-year-old is set to take on the role when Nenad Zimonjic’s term as captain expires next year. Troicki is still an active player and is currently ranked 201st in the world following what has been a disappointing season for him. He has only managed to win one main draw match on the ATP Tour this season which was in January at the Pune Open in India.
“I am aware that the time is slowly coming when I am finishing my professional career. Now my priority is to prepare as well as possible for the new season,” Troicki recently told 24sedam.rs.
“I give myself about five or six months to see how I would feel, but also what results I would achieve. My plans also depend on that a lot. If it goes well, that’s great, but if I see that it’s not going and I’m struggling, I think that I will most likely stop playing actively.”
At the height of his career, Troicki was ranked 12th in the world rankings back in 2011. He has won three ATP titles with two of those occurring in Australia at the Sydney International in 2015 and 2016. He also won the 2010 Kremlin Cup in Moscow. In the Davis Cup he has played in 24 ties, including the 2010 final where Serbia won the team competition for the first time in history. Overall, he has won 24 out of 40 matches played at the event.
There has been no official confirmation yet of Troicki’s appointment but he has previously stated that he hopes to stay working in the sport after retiring. Should he take the role as captain, his term is set to continue until after the 2024 Olympic Games.
“As for my future plans, of course I will stay in tennis. I have been in it all my life and I think that I will give the most in where I am the best,” he said.
“I have some plans, but I don’t want to talk about them yet. Slowly, all in good time. My focus is on the beginning of preparations, and to do them as well as possible.”
Whilst he is staying coy about his future plans, another player has already praised his appointment as coach. During a recent TV interview on Nova S Filip Krajinović hinted that the appointment is already a done deal.
“First of all, we are friends, Ziki (Zimonjic) did an amazing job, Viktor is now the coach, we all supported him and we can’t wait to play for the national team again. We couldn’t play this year because of this situation, I hope there will be opportunities,” Krajinović commented.
The first glimpse of Troicki as a coach could occur earlier than Serbia’s next Davis Cup tie. Blic has reported that should the ATP Cup go ahead, he could be their team captain. Although this has not been confirmed.
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.
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