Ghent will host the eagerly-awaited Davis Cup Final between Great Britain and Belgium this weekend on the indoor clay surface of the Flanders Expo. Great Britain has reached the Davis Cup Final for the first time since 1978 and will be bidding to win their first title since 1936. Belgium has not reached the Davis Cup final since 1904.
Belgium and Great Britain have clashed eleven times in their long Davis Cup history. These countries met for the first time in the final of the 1904 edition when Great Britain won 5-0 at Wimbledon. Their last Davis Cup clash dates back to 2012 when Belgium won 4-1 in Glasgow.
British tennis Number 1 player Andy Murray will be looking to add his first Davis Cup title to his long list of honours which includes the 2012 Olympic gold medal, the US Open title in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013 when he became the first British man to win at the All-England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. With a win at this weekend’s Davis Cup final in Ghent, Murray would equal Fred Perry who led to the last British triumph in 1936 when Great Britain beat Australia 3-2 at Wimbledon. Great Britain has played in 17 Davis Cup finals, winning the trophy 9 times.
Murray led the British team to the final with singles and doubles wins over three big Davis Cup nations. The Dunblane star contributed significantly to the three British wins over the USA, France and Australia this year winning eight of the nine rubbers in 2015. The only other British win which did not involve Murray came from James Ward who beat John Isner in five sets in the first round match against the USA.
In the clash with America last March, Murray beat Donald Young in four sets before Ward fought back from two sets down to upset Isner in a thrilling five set match with 6-7 (5-7) 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 15-13, which lasted almost five hours. After a win by the Bryan brothers over Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot in five sets, Murray beat Isner in three sets.
Andy and Jamie Murray secured all the three points in the 3-1 win over nine-time Davis Cup champions France at the Queen’s Club last July. After a win by Gilles Simon over James Ward, Andy Murray beat Jo Wilfried Tsonga to draw level to 1-1. The Murray brothers beat Tsonga and Nicholas Mahut in the doubles match before Andy won a tough four-set match against Simon. The win resulted in Great Britain qualifying for their first Davis Cup semifinal since 1981.
The results of the Murray brothers have put their native town Dunblane in the spotlight. A tweet after their quarter final against France stated: “If Dunblane declared independence, they could win the Davis Cup”.
Judy Murray, the mother of Andy and Jamie and Fed Cup captain, also spoke about how the performance by Murray brothers have brought pride to their home town.
“There is a huge sense of pride in what the boys have achieved. It just brings so much excitement to the people in Dunblane. To see them go out there and play together for their country is a very special moment. For Dunblane it’s a huge thing. Andy and Jamie started out as two little tots with tiny rackets and shorts way too big for them. Who could have believed they would end up where they are?” said Judy Murray.
In Great Britain’s semifinal against Australia last September Andy Murray beat Thanasi Kokkinakis in three sets before Bernard Tomic beat Dan Evans to draw level to 1-1. Andy and Jamie Murray then won the crucial doubles match against Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt in five sets. Andy Murray sealed the first Davis Cup final for his country since 1978 with a three-set win over Bernard Tomic. Shortly after the win, Murray spoke about how much the trophy would mean for his country.
“To win the biggest team competition in tennis having beaten the other three Grand Slam nations would be a huge victory for everyone in the team. It would be well-deserved as well. It’s taken a lot of time and hard work from many players, many of the staff, coaches, physios, everyone. It’s taken five years. It’s taken five years. When you win a Slam or a big competition, it’s obviously years in the work but this is a bit different. The last five years it’s been a progression from a pretty low place in world tennis, to playing for the biggets team competition. It would be big for everyone involved for sure”, said Murray.
British captain Leon Smith is yet to choose between James Ward and Kyle Edmund for the second singles spot in the British team this week-end. Edmund has recently boosted his chance to be chosen as the second singles player after winning the ATP Challenger in Buenos Aires, defeating Carlos Berloq on clay. Edmund has improved his ranking from world number 191 to number 99 and has showed a good attitude to play on the clay surface. Edmund won two doubles junior Grand Slam titles at the 2012 US Open and at the 2013 French Open and reached two Junior semifinals at the 2011 US Open and at Wimbledon in 2013.
Belgium will play their first Davis Cup final since 1904 and obviously this weekend’s event will be one of the greatest highlights for Belgian sport this year. Belgium has only reached the semifinal stage twice since 1981.
The team captained by Johan Van Herck has reached the historic final after a successful campaign highlighted by wins over 2014 Davis Cup champions Switzerland followed by Canada and Argentina.
“For us it’s a huge event. I think for Belgium it’s important not only for tennis but sport in general. It’s a good team effort. I think everyone in Belgium appreciates that. We will to go one step further. The whole country will be behind us and we will try to keep the trophy here”, said Belgian captain van Herck.
Belgium’s top player David Goffin will carry the major hopes for the home team. Goffin lost against Andy Murray 1-6 1-6 in their recent head-to-head match in Paris Bercy but this weekend’s final will be a totally different story. The unique Davis Cup atmosphere and a different surface could turn around the predictions in favour of the Belgian star who will rely on the strong support from the home crowd.
In this year’s Davis Cup Goffin scored the decisive 3-2 point in the first round match against Switzerland with a straight-set win over Swiss Adrien Bossel in the fifth match. In the semifinal Goffin beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in straight sets to draw level to 2-2 after Argentina took the 2-1 lead after the win in the doubles match.
Goffin has a win-loss record of 37-24 this year and reached two finals at s’Hertogenbosch and Gstaad. He also reached the quarter finals in Rome, Munich and Basel as well as the semifinals in Chennai. His best result at the Grand Slams in 2015 was reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon.
“The day I played against Andy in Bercy it was just a off-day for me”, said Goffin. “I didn’t play really well. Andy was really aggressive. He played an unbelievable match there but it’s different conditions here. It’s a completely different match and another match. I just have to forget this match and think about the matches of this week-end”, said Goffin.
Belgium started this year’s campaign with a dramatic 3-2 win over a Swiss team without Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka before crushing Canada 5-0 last July. Last September Belgium delighted the home fans at the Forest National in Brussels with another dramatic 3-2 over Argentina.
The other man to watch on the Belgian side will be Steve Darcis who has won four decisive fifth rubber matches for his team at 2-2, including the decisive clash against Federico Delbonis from Argentina last September in Brussels. In that dramatic match Delbonis fended off two match points in the fourth set as Darcis was serving at 5-4 before the Belgian clinched a dramatic 3-2 win in the tie-break.
However, there is a question match on Darcis’ form as the 31-year-old Belgian player was forced to retire from a match against Richard Gasquet with a left ankle injury last month in Stockholm.
Belgium will also feature Ruben Bemelmans, who will play in the doubles, and 21-year-old Kimmer Coppejans. Bemelmans teamed up with Coppejans in the four-set doubles match over Canada last July.
The Belgian team has enlisted the help of former French player Michael Llodra, who was recently contacted by the Belgian tennis Federation to offer his advice for the doubles during the Davis Cup final.
“This is a very exciting challenge when you know how difficult it is to win that title”, said Llodra.
The Final between the two countries will get start on Friday at 12:30 GMT.
(Exclusive) Albert Costa: “Davis Cup Finals Are Going To Remain The Best Of Three Sets”
Last week at the Barcelona Open during one of the many suspensions due to the rainy weather UbiTennis had a chat with 2002 French Open champion Albert Costa in the elegant clubhouse of the Real Club de Tennis de Barcelona.
By Federico Bertelli, translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Born in Lleida, Albert Costa grew up as a tennis player at the Real Club de Tennis de Barcelona and also won the tournament in 1997. When he retired from tennis he became the director of the tournament until three years ago when he handed it over to David Ferrer. One of the best stands on the centre court takes his name. Until the 1980s the tennis stadium was the Spanish team’s Davis Cup home.
Now, after stepping down from his role at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Albert Costa has become tournament director of the Davis Cup which is now advertised as “The World Cup of Tennis.”
UBITENNIS: Players have asked to be able conclude their season before playing the Davis Cup. As a result, the group ties which will determine the eight quarter finalists have been moved to September and the final knockout stage will unfold over five days. What can you tell us about this? Is it going to be a definitive format?
Albert Costa: It hasn’t been confirmed yet but likely it will be six days starting on Tuesday until Sunday. It is not yet agreed with ITF but, as organisers of the event, our intention is to play from Tuesday to Sunday at the end of November. As far as the future is concerned, we are trying to find the best solution. We are aware that the first years will require some fine tuning but I believe that in the next one or two years we’re going to reach a consolidated format, which will enable us to work comfortably and to give certainty to our stakeholders.
UBITENNIS: In 2022 and 2023 the Davis Cup will be played in Malaga. Can you tell us anything more about the selection process, considering that last year they were speaking about Abu Dhabi and then at the beginning of 2022 a neutral location was being considered?
Albert Costa: Actually we were in negotiations with Abu Dhabi, there was a concrete proposal. Then Malaga came up with a very attractive proposal and at that point we considered other factors which led us to choose the latter: tennis tradition and culture are at a different level in Spain and this was an aspect that drove Kosmos to choose Malaga. Other considerations are involved as well: an easier destination to reach for tennis fans. Europe is the centre of tennis in terms of countries and players, the ATP finals are played indoors in Turin. This last aspect is particularly relevant: in fact it is very simple to move to Malaga just a few days later and the environment is similar. Besides, Malaga is a city which is growing very fast and sees Davis Cup as an opportunity to gain visibility and to pair with its tourism.
UBITENNIS: The first edition of Davis Cup with the new format was played at the Caja Magica in Madrid, where the Mutua Madrid Open usually takes place. One of the advantages of the facilities is the possibility to use the three indoor courts simultaneously. Has the idea of playing simultaneous matches been put aside? Playing more than one match at the same time could allow them to go back to the 5-set format like in the old Davis Cup.
Albert Costa: I know very well the format of the former Davis Cup, but we have ruled out going back to five set matches. We haven’t taken into consideration the option of playing simultaneously.
UBITENNIS: But with the current three match format, the double counts very much, much more than before; amazing runs like those of Djokovic or Murray, who a few years ago carried their teams on their shoulders and led them to victory, now would no longer be possible.
Albert Costa: It’s true. With the new format, having a great number one isn’t enough. You need a balanced team with a good doubles. But in this way the format makes competition tighter and more open and potentially there is a great number of teams that can win the trophy. This makes it all more exciting. For instance Serbia, in spite of having Djokovic, who has dominated tennis over the last years, hasn’t yet succeeded in winning the Davis Cup with the new format.
UBITENNIS: Summing up, the 3-match format, two singles and one doubles, isn’t going to change.
Albert Costa: Yes, I confirm this is the direction we are taking: 3 matches in one day.
UBITENNIS: Speaking about the calendar, which are your expectations in terms of public, now that tennis fans have got two months to make arrangements for going to watch their team? Last year it was very complicated since the teams qualified for the quarter finals were known only one week before they actually played.
Albert Costa: Now it’s much easier. We are going to work with travel agencies in order to set up interesting packages. We are also going to work with the national federations in this direction. We are aware that environment and support are the distinguishing traits that make Davis Cup so special. Our target for 2022 is to have at least 1000 supporters for each team cheering their players from the stands. The environment is definitely one of the key factors to success. This means that we want at least 8000 supporters coming from the different countries for the final eight. If Spain were to reach this stage, the number would be even higher. Then we have to add the neutral public that simply comes in to enjoy tennis. Our idea is to create an experience which combines Davis Cup with the possibility to have a trip to the Mediterranean and enjoy the city.
UBITENNIS: The old format was no longer viable. For many players winning Davis Cup once in their career was enough, whereas Majors are never enough. How do you think you can succeed in attracting the best players to always play Davis Cup?
Albert Costa: when I used to play from 1995 to 2005, I remember that the players were already asking to change the format. It was impossible to dedicate four weeks to the Davis Cup, which often involved moving to different surfaces from the Tour schedule. With the new format the workload is different. The players of a team that reaches the final stage have to invest three weeks. In terms of surfaces and event preparation it’s all much simpler: the final stage of Davis Cup is played indoors, just like the rest of the indoor season. As the matches are played best of three sets the players are much less impacted in terms of physical engagement, which is an excellent thing considering the increasing amount of injuries we’ve seen recently. It’s true that in the past many players were content with contributing to winning one Davis Cup only. We aim at providing a comfortable scheduling so that players will be eager to participate every year.
UBITENNIS: Wouldn’t the event be made more legendary if at least in the final the matches were played best of five sets?
Albert Costa: I understand the historical point of view, but also the finals of the ATP Masters 1000 and of the ATP Finals were played best of five sets and now things have changed. Especially with the stress, both physical and mental, which modern tennis brings in. Players are already pushing their limits. It’s already three matches, which means at least six hours of competition. It’s enough both for the public and for the players. I believe that the value of a Davis Cup victory cannot be measured on the basis of the physical toll paid by players. It’s the overall value of the team that ought to be rewarded, which is also the reason why it is fair that the most well-balanced teams, with a strong number 1, a good number 2 and a good doubles, are the most likely to win.
UBITENNIS: Under a communication profile the claim that has been delivered since 2019 is that it’s a World Cup of Tennis. This theme has already been broadly discussed, but I’d still like to hear your opinion as a former player.
Albert Costa: Before the format we used to play with, home and away ties, Davis Cup was like America’s Cup, where the winner of the previous edition waited for the challenger selection series. Changes are in the order of things. I believe that going towards a World Cup type of format, with a group stage and a knockout stage is an excellent solution.
UBITENNIS: A last question: until 2023 everything is scheduled, in terms of format and location. For 2024 could there be an agreement with ATP Cup?
Albert Costa: We are working at it. Having Davis Cup at the end of November and ATP Cup at the beginning of January doesn’t make much sense. Kosmos and the other parties involved have to get into talks. We’re trying. Let’s see what comes out of it.
REPORT: Valencia To Host Group Stage Of Davis Cup Finals As Part Of Five-Year Deal
It is understood that negotiations are at an advanced stage and an announcement could be made very soon.
The Spanish city of Valencia has been chosen as the fourth and final host of the group stages of the Davis Cup Finals, according to two separate media sources.
Regional newspaper Las Provincias has reported that negotiations have been ongoing between officials in the region and Kosmos, the investment company who oversees the running of the tournament. It has been reported that talks between the two are at an ‘advance’ stage with it only being a matter of time before a deal is finalized.
An announcement is expected to be made as early as this week that Valencia has signed a five-year deal to host the Davis Cup. However, the venue of where the event will be hosted is still to be confirmed. One of the options is the bullring known as the Plaza de Toros de Valencia which has staged numerous Davis Cup ties in the past. However, another venue may seem more suitable considering the time of year and the fact four teams are taking part.
Valencia’s rumoured appointment fills in the gap left by Malaga who have been named host of the knockout finals in November after initially being awarded the chance to hold one of the four group stages along with Glasglow, Bologna and Hamburg. Malaga will also host the finale in 2023 as well. Making it the fourth time in a row the finale of the event has been held in Spain.
News outlet Levante–EMV has also confirmed Valencia’s intention to host the team event and say officials have already expressed a desire to one day host the knock-out stages in November. Although there is no guarantee that will happen.
The development comes shortly after France pulled out of the bidding process due to what they described as ‘onerous’ financial and operational conditions which none of their potential organizers was willing to accept. France was initially excluded from the hosting process and filed a case to the Court of Arbitration in March for Sport (CAS) saying the decision was unfair. However, a month later they were allowed to take part. It is unclear as to why they were initially excluded.
Davis Cup officials are yet to publicly comment on Valencia’s appointment but it is expected that they will do so very soon. In their latest communication, organizers said they plan to announce the fourth host of the group stages, which is said to be Valencia, before the draw takes place on April 26th.
The group stages of the 2022 Davis Cup Finals will take place from 14-18 September. Each group will consist of four teams with ties being a best-of-three rubbers taking place on the same day. The top two teams from each group will then progress to the knockout stages which will take place between November 23-27.
Davis Cup: France Excluded From Hosting Tie, Overturns Decision And Then Pulls Out Over ‘Onerous Conditions’
During the first quarter of 2022 a dispute prompted France to take legal action but details of what happened are still unclear.
Tennis can sometimes be a confusing business and France’s current relationship with the International Tennis Federation relating to the Davis Cup is a prime example of this.
On Monday the French Tennis Federation (FFT) issued a statement publicly confirming that they had been in a legal dispute with the ITF over their right to hold a Davis Cup tie this year. The fallout was prompted by a decision that France, who has won the Davis Cup 10 times, was excluded from the bidding process to host one of the four group stages. It is still unclear as to why the country was deemed ineligible with no public comment being made. Especially with France being one of the 12 teams to qualify for this year’s finals.
Subsequently the FFT took on the ITF and Kosmos, who oversees the running of the team competition. On March 16th they filed an appeal of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) arguing that their exclusion was unfair. However, less than a month later (April 8th) France was once again included in the bidding process following the withdrawal of a host city from the group stages. Five days later the ITF confirmed that Malaga would be hosting the knockout stages of the Davis Cup Finals in November instead of the group stages in September. Leaving a venue vacant.
“The new procedure put in place by the ITF and Kosmos has taken into account the criticisms made by the FFT in the course of its submissions before CAS, by providing clear and transparent deadlines for applications and the stages of the procedure,” the FFT said in a statement.
“Although the FFT is pleased to note that the ITF and Kosmos have taken its objections into account in this new bidding process and to have the merits of its arguments confirmed as regards the defects in the original bidding process, it regrets having been forced to file a legal appeal before CAS to assert its rights.“
Ironically, France won their argument to be involved in the selection process without the CAS having their final say. However, there would be another twist to the somewhat confusing plot which still has gaps in the story.
Today the FFT confirmed that they no longer want to take part in the process due to what they perceive as obligations so severe that no potential organizer in the country was willing to accept. They didn’t elaborate on what those conditions are. Although it is assumed that they have been accepted by Great Britain, Italy and Germany. The countries who will host three out of the four group stages.
“After finally being able to review the complete specifications in the designation of the host cities of the Davis Cup Group Stages, the FFT has decided not to submit a bid in view of the onerous financial and operational conditions which no potential organizer in the French territory was willing to accept,” they said.
“From a legal point of view, having been recognized in its right to participate in the bidding process for the designation of the Davis Cup host cities, the FFT has decided to withdraw its action before the CAS today since it no longer has any purpose.”
The extraordinary fiasco also raises questions about the FFT’s statement and their decision to go as far as saying that hosting conditions are ‘onerous’ in their view. It is just a case of them expressing their views or is it a warning to others?
The timing of the FFT’s statement coincided with claims that Kosmos, who is the principle financial investor in the Davis Cup, made millions in relation to their involvement in the relocation of the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. According to El Confidencial, the company negotiated a payment of 4M euros for each of the six tournaments to be played in the country from 2020. Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique is the founder of Kosmos. He has not been accused of committing any misconduct, but is alleged to have received preferential treatment during the deal.
“Pique had a key role in the negotiations for the Spanish Super Cup to be hosted in Saudi Arabia, and throughout this process enjoyed preferential treatment from (federation president) Luis Rubiales, for reasons yet to be determined. A spokesperson for Pique has denied that he received any special treatment,” El Confidencial wrote on Monday.
According to the latest information, it is expected that a fourth host for the Davis Cup Group stage will be announced before the draw for the Finals on 26 April.
There has been no public response by either the ITF or Kosmos regarding the FFT’s statement.
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