Nicolas Mahut and Julian Benneteau secured a four set win over Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot 7-6(7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead in their Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal tie with Great Britain.
The doubles rubber was a hotly contested affair and both teams had their chances. Great Britain squandered four set points in the first set before making sure they took their chances in the second. Murray/Inglot looked in control leading 4-2 in the third set but Mahut/Benneteau responded magnificently, winning five of the next six games to move two sets to one in front. The fourth set was equally as close, but when it looked destined to go to a tiebreak Mahut stepped up and helped inspire a crucial break of serve for the French pair to wrap up the win and book France’s place in the semifinals against Serbia.
Heading into the third rubber the pressure was very much on the British pair of Murray/Inglot to get the win, as the 2015 champions found themselves 2-0 down after day one. Straight set victories for Lucas Pouille over Kyle Edmund and for Jeremy Chardy over Dan Evans left Mahut/Benneteau with the chance to book France’s place in the semifinals. Both sides boasted a good recent record as partnerships, with the French pair wining the ATP title in Marseille in February and the British pair winning both their previous doubles rubbers together in the Davis Cup against Canada and Serbia. All four players quality made a for a really tough battle and a highly engaging contest.
All four players served very impressively at the beginning of the match and neither side looked like they were going to be broken in the opening eleven games of the match. That pattern looked set to continue when France were serving to stay in the set down 6-5 as the team led 40-0. However, two double faults in the next three points brought us to deuce for the first time in the match. Murray/Inglot applied the pressure and managed to bring up a set point on three occasions for Great Britain. The French pairing of Mahut/Benneteau saved the first two with high quality play but the Brits had a an excellent chance on the third opportunity. Inglot had his sights set on ripping a backhand at the two onrushing French players but his one handed backhand hit the net. The chances went begging and France held to force a tiebreak.
Great Britain took command early on and moved 4-1 in front. But, as Pouille had done against Edmund in their singles match yesterday from a similar position, the French pair turned it around and brought up a set point of their own at 6-5. The French pair thought they had secured the set after Mahut hit a cross court backhand return of serve winner, but it missed the outside edge of the line by an inch. A huge serve from Inglot brought Great Britain a fourth set point, but once again Inglot/Murray could not capitalise. When the French pair got a second chance they did not hesitate as the former number one doubles player in the world Mahut struck a volley at Inglot, who could not reply, sealing the first set for France in the breaker 9-7.
Once again in the second set opportunities to break serve were at a premium as all four players impressed when stepping up to the line. In the eleventh game a double fault from Benneteau pushed the French pair back to deuce before the Brits stepped up and earned a first break point in the set. Having squandered three opportunities in set number one, the visiting side made no mistake this time as Inglot struck a lob winner to take a 6-5 lead. Murray had only lost four points throughout the whole match on serve and kept that form going, closing out the set with an unreturned serve to level the match at one set all.
Having looked so strong on serve throughout the match, the Brits came under the most intensive pressure to date in the fourth game of the third set. Inglot’s first serve had deserted him and as a result the pair found themselves 15-40 down. The Brits responded and battled to save both break points with overhead smash put-aways. They then squandered a chance to hold but eventually made it out of the game to level the scores at 2-2.
That escape for the Brits proved to be a turning point as Inglot/Murray responded to break Mahut’s serve for the first time in the match. The game was highly competitive and saw plenty of chances for the French pair to hold pass them by. A lob from Inglot brought up game point and an exceptional reflex volley from Murray secured the break and a 3-2 lead. Great Britain were not out of the woods yet as Inglot came under further pressure on serve down two break points. Yet once again the Brit stepped up when it mattered most, firing down four big first serves to secure the hold and remain in front.
The Brits could not keep getting themselves in danger on serve and keep escaping and this came back to bite them in the eighth game. A one-two combination off Murray’s serve and Inglot’s volley winner saved one break point, but the French pair took a second chance, seeing the Brits drop serve for the first time in the match after two hours and 18 minutes of play. Mahut held to love to move the home team 5-4 in front, asking the question, but Inglot responded with love hold of his own to level the scores once more.
In the twelfth game, with Great Britain serving to stay in the third set, the French team stepped up and moved to two set points. After a tentative volley from Inglot, Mahut had the chance to win the point but missed his forehand cross court just wide. The Brits then saved a second with a good first serve from Murray and swiftly moved to game point. Mahut hit a bullet forehand at Inglot to force the score back to deuce before he struck another superb forehand down the line winner to bring up a third set point. A very untimely double fault from the Scot ended the set on a very disappointing note for Great Britain as they found themselves two sets to one down.
The fourth set was equally as competitive and looked as though it was destined for another tiebreak as the British pair brought up two game points on Murray’s serve. After those two chances went begging the French team sensed that now was the moment to secure victory. Mahut produced some fine shot making to bring up a first match point. The Brits saved that one but Mahut was relentless with his fierce groundstrokes. Determined to seal the tie, the Wimbledon men’s doubles champion played a huge part in taking the next two points to seal a fantastic win for France 7-6(7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5. Of course that win secured an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie for France over Great Britain, meaning that tomorrow’s two singles matches will be dead rubbers.
(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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