The current head of the Spanish Tennis Federation has sent out an indirect message to Rafael Nadal, warning that his fellow Davis Cup team mates are “bothered” by his absence in a competition which they feel they already have little incentive to participate in.
It is well documented that Spain have enjoyed great success in the Davis Cup in the 21st century, having won the competition five times. It is no secret that Nadal has played a huge part in leading his country to this achievement , being part of the winning team in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011, alongside fellow former top ten players including Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Robredo.
However, in more recent years the nation has struggled to make an impact, failing to make the semifinals of the competition since 2012. Nadal’s absence from the side has coincided with this slip in performance, which has even seen Spain drop out of the World Group back in September 2014, where they lost away to Brazil 3-1. Their relegation to Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 lasted two years before a 5-0 playoff win over India put them back in the group featuring the top 16 nations prior to the 2017 campaign.
Nadal was not present during his country’s 3-2 victory over Croatia in round one this year and more noticeably did not participate in their recent quarterfinal loss to a Serbian team led by Novak Djokovic. Given the fact that the world number two was out on court representing his country, questions have been asked as to why the 14-time Grand Slam champion was not doing battle against him.
The Spaniard has been highly critical in the past regarding the current Davis Cup format, stating that there are not enough incentives to tempt the best tennis players to compete. Miguel Diaz was appointed as the new president of the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation (RFET) last year and he shares the Spanish number one’s views on the event, but admits that all the players, including Nadal, should commit to the competition for at least a couple of weeks of the year.
Speaking to the Spanish site AS, Diaz said: “The tie (against Serbia) was caught between the middle between the end of the hard-court season and the start of the clay season. It wasn’t the best week to convince them. Even so, I thought we could count on everyone.”
In the tie against Serbia, Spain were also without their second best player Roberto Bautista Agut, leaving Pablo Carreno Busta, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Marc Lopez and 19-year-old Jaume Munar to lead the line. Munar’s inclusion highlights the lack of depth in the squad and the lack of commitment from the other top Spanish players, baring in mind that he is currently ranked at 245th in the world.
Serbia were comfortable winners in the World Group quarterfinal, sealing victory after just two days, eventually going on to win the tie 4-1. Djokovic opened up with a straight sets win over Ramos-Vinolas, before Viktor Troicki defeated Carreno Busta in straight sets also. The Serbs took an unassailable lead after winning the doubles rubber, with Troicki and Nenad Zimjonic ousting Carreno Busta and Lopez in a five set thriller 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-0, 4-6, 6-2.
Diaz revealed that Nadal’s absence irritates some of the other top Spanish players, who feel reluctant to fill the void. “When Rafa is not (with us) honestly, there are some players who are bothered that we bring them. Every player has his ego”, added the RFET President.
While those comments can be taken as being an attack on the 14-time Grand Slam champion, Diaz defended and also praised him. He said that his contribution to Spanish tennis means that he is virtually untouchable, given that his success has helped to inspire the next generation and fill the academies.
Recent news regarding Davis Cup reform is likely to come as welcome news to Nadal and fellow top players after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced in March that its Board of Directors have unanimously endorsed plans to play matches over three sets, with the ties lasting two days rather than three. These recommendations will have to be ratified by the ITF’s AGM in Vietnam in August before plans can be finalised, but many believe this is a step in the right direction with regards to preserving the success and the future of the competition.
Davis Cup: Croatia Replaces Captain Just Days Before The Finals
Zeljko Krajan is fired by the Croatian Federation because of contrasts with players. His replacement will be Franko Skugor. Ivo Karlovic was selected to replace Cilic but declined to play a Challenger in Houston
The Croatian Tennis Federation has issued a press release informing that Zeljko Krajan is no longer the Davis Cup captain for the Croatian team. Less than a week before the BNP Paribas Davis Cup Finals at the Caja Magica in Madrid, Krajan’s departure is described as a mutual decision by the official press release, but according to Croatian press agency Hina the former captain categorically denied this version of the events and confirmed he unwillingly had to acknowledge his dismissal. Krajan did not deny there had been disputes between himself and the Federation, but he thought everything had been settled: “I was ready for the press conference on Monday and the departure to Madrid on Tuesday” he said.
During the press conference in Zagreb on Monday, instead, the Croatian Tennis Federation named 32-year-old Franko Skugor as the new captain of the Croatian team who will lead the squad in Madrid next week: “These are not the ideal conditions for the team, given the situation, but it has been decided I will lead the team” said Skugor to the press. The President of the Tennis Federation Nikolina Babic explained their decision to replace the captain and confirmed the players agreed with this course of action: “Krajan had lost credibility among the players. We spoke to him and realized it would be better if he didn’t come to Madrid”.
This ends a tumultuous week for Croatian tennis: first there was Marin Cilic’s withdrawal from the team, then the controversial nomination of 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic as his replacement, despite his commitment to play the Houston Challenger next week to boost his chances for a Top 100 year-end ranking (he is currently n. 106) and a direct entry into the 2020 Australian Open singles main draw.
Some media outlets in Zagreb claiming to have access to inside sources are suggesting there are also financial issues behind the events of this last week: it is believed that some players did not like the idea of late-comer Ivo Karlovic receiving an equal share of the Davis Cup prize money. Furthermore, it is highlighted how the decision to remove Krajan from his post came after a meeting that included also the players, some of whom did not have a good relationship with Krajan: Borna Coric refused to play in Davis Cup in 2017 after being excluded from the Final in 2016 and Mate Pavic was kept out of the team on many occasions despite being one of the best doubles players in the world.
In order to replace Marin Cilic, the new Croatian captain nominated both Borna Gojo (ATP n. 279) and Nino Serdarusic (ATP n. 283) as singles players.
Marin Cilic Withdraws From Davis Cup
The injury-stricken season of the former grand slam champion has come to an end.
Croatia’s chances of winning a second consecutive Davis Cup title has been dealt a blow after Marin Cilic confirmed that he will skip the tournament on medical advice.
The former US Open champion, who has been blighted by a knee injury in recent months, will miss the team tournament to ‘undergo some small interventions.’ Although he has revealed that a recent scan showed that surgery is not required on his knee. Cilic has been troubled by a recurring knee injury throughout what has been a roller coaster 2019 season for him.
“The last year and a half has been a real struggle mentally and physically for me. Even with all the preventative work and rehab my team and I did, my recurring knee injury has continued to give me problems, and as the season progressed it was becoming more evident that surgery was inevitable.” Cilic wrote in an Instagram post.
“I recently did an ultrasound and luckily the results were better than expected. The rehab work was successful enough that surgery is not necessary at this stage, however, I will need to undergo a few minor interventions which will keep me off the tennis court for a longer period and unfortunately means I will not be able to compete at the Davis Cup this month.”
The withdrawal of the 31-year-old has brought his troubled season to an end. It is the first time he hasn’t won at least one ATP title since 2007, when he claimed two Challenger titles that year. Cilic will end the season outside the top 30 for the first time since 2013.
“I will dedicate myself to getting back to form so that I can enter the 2020 season healthier, more prepared, and more motivated than ever.” He declared.
Cilic is an instrumental figure in his country’s Davis Cup team. He has won more Davis Cup matches (39) than any other Croatian player and has played in 25 ties over a 12-year period. In the Davis Cup final last year he won both of his singles matches to guide Croatia to a 3-1 win over France. Their second title in the history of the competition.
There has been no official announcement about how will replace Cilic in the team. However, one source has reported that Ivo Karlovic is set to make a return at the age of 40. Croatian newspaper Novi List claims that Karlovic has been invited to join the team should a gap arises. He has only played in the team competition once since 2013, which was in the 2016 final.
The revamped Davis Cup will get underway on November 18th. 18 teams will take part in a round-robin tournament over a week. This year’s event is being held at the Caja Magica in Spain.
Croatia has been drawn in the same group as Russia and Spain.
Revamped Davis Cup Finale Blighted By Slow Ticket Sales
It is not going to plan for organisers of the team competition with numerous sessions yet to sell half of their tickets.
With less than two weeks to go until the start of the brand new Davis Cup format organisers have admitted for the first time that they are ‘disappointed’ with the ticket sales.
Later this month, 18 teams will take part in a week-long round-robin format in a similar structure to that of the football World Cup. The controversial changes to the competition were approved by an ITF vote last year with heavy investment from Kosmos. A company founded by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique. Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion in the event over a 25-year period.
Despite the large financial backing, it appears that the organisers are finding it harder than expected to to shift tickets. According to details obtained by the Press Association on November 5th, only nine out of the 25 sessions have managed to sell 50% or more of available tickets. Although five others are ‘close to doing so.’
“We are happy with ticket sales for the afternoon sessions and from Friday until Sunday (quarter-finals, semi-finals and final) but it’s much more difficult to sell tickets for morning sessions, as happens in all tournaments.” A Kosmos spokesperson told The Press Association.
“We are working with the 17 embassies in Spain in order to reach international communities living in Spain. We have economic prices. The cheapest ticket costs 25 euros and you can see a tie (comprising three matches).”
The venue of this year’s competition is the Caja Magica, which hosts the Madrid Open every year in May. In recent times the combined ATP/WTA has attracted more than a quarter of a million visitors each edition with numerous sessions selling out. This year a record 278,110 spectators attended. Eliminating the theory that it could be the location or venue causing the slow sales for the team event.
Both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have confirmed their intentions to play in the Davis Cup finals. However, 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer will be absent and has recently cast doubt on his future participation in the event. Daniil Medvedev, Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray are also set to play.
One of the new features of the event is that it will have both opening and closing ceremonies featuring numerous artists. On November 18th DJ Alan Walker will kick-off then event along with Puerto Rican singer Farruko. On the same day, Spanish band Taburete will play on the main stadium following the first match between Croatia and Russia. The closing ceremony on the 24th will be headlined by Shakira, who is the wife of Kosmos founder Pique.
The first four days of the Davis Cup finals will be the group stages. There will be six groups of three teams. The winners and two of the best-performing runners-up (based on number of games, sets and matches won) will then qualify for the quarter-final stage.
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