By Dirk Hordorff (DTB Vice President for Professional Tennis, Education and Wheel Chair Tennis)
Anyone who hoped that the ice age between the ITF and the players would have been over after the election of US David Haggerty, and that the new board would set new impulses for Davis and Fed Cup with courageous reforms, is very much deceived. Instead, it is more likely that someone needs to get rid of the shards that David Haggerty has piled up for the ITF in just two years.
The amount of errors, the persistent awkward acts and increasingly grotesque suggestions have brought Haggerty terrible defeats even among many of his followers.
It could have been so easy. The players reached out and submitted reasonable proposals for Davis Cup. But the ignorance and the lack of economic understanding have led the ITF into a dead end. Having friends as advisors who are only looking for their own interests has never been an advantage for anyone. In this context you can look at the crazy idea of a joint neutral final in the Davis Cup and semi-final and final in the Fed Cup in Geneva. The main point was to win votes for the president of the Swiss Tennis Federation Rene Stammbach and not about the interests of the players or the fans. But the calculation did not work. No event can be a success without the support of the players. Finally the board members of the ITF have also recognized it and pulled the emergency brake. Suddenly the Geneva idea was pulled out of circulation with flowery words before the ITF meeting.
And then the best joke: Best of 3 Format instead of Best of 5, that’s how David Haggerty wanted to increase his popularity among the players. Basically a good idea but that was just another episode of mistakes of the American. Why didn’t he get a majority? Just because the proposal was not thought through until the end and it ended up being a real beginner’s mistake.
If you understand tennis, you should be able to imagine what the fans expect. And this is not an expensive ticket for a match of perhaps 91 minutes and then to be sent home. If you want to bring tennis forward you have to think a little further and especially long term because something is even more important than the opinion of individual players and that is the acceptance of the tennis fans and those who you could possibly win as new tennis enthusiasts. Canteen tennis is certainly contra productive.
Much better would be to follow the proposal of the ATP Players Council. The pros have already sent a letter to David Haggerty after US Open 2016 and made clear and reasonable suggestions. The ITF should have taken this opportunity but the letter has not even been made accessible to all board members. If you destroy opportunities you will not be able to successfully bring all parties together. As I said, a great chance wasted.
How easy it would have been to play the Davis Cup in the same format as the Fed Cup. On two days, with Best of 3, with the double at the end. At the very least, it would be ensured that every encounter was not decided at the beginning. This would have been supported by the DTB.
Now it is time to clean up the total damage caused by David Haggerty. With sensible minds in the ITF organization it is possible to reorganize and revive these team competitions. It would be sad if the ITF destroys its premium events. The DTB has supported the proposals at the last General Meeting with less set-up times and fewer commitments in the program and will continue to be willing to actively participate in meaningful reforms for Davis and Fed Cup.
There are solutions that would be supported by the players and fans. If players are enthusiastic about the event then fans will be coming to watch as well, the whole story will be a success and also a financial success for the ITF. Because the main reason behind all of this was how to generate more income. If you have a sense for the market and for tennis business then you should realize that a good product brings income and success in the long run.
What are the possibilities for a sensible Davis Cup reform?
If you see the Davis Cup as a premium event, if you want to match it with a world team championship then you have to look at other sports who successfully market those kinds of events. Then we come to a main requirement of the players. Davis Cup should not be held every year and for sure not in the Olympic years.
At the moment, the finals take place every year in November and the title holder may already be exiled at the beginning of February. Why not play the Davis Cup either every two years or over three years, but not with four but with three encounters per year. This would solve one of the main problems in marketing of Davis Cup. One would have a manageable, predictable time frame to contact stadiums, cities and sponsors. How does it look today? In the middle of September the draw is made for the matches for the first week of February. Then the host country has to look for a venue, contact sponsors, design a marketing strategy, and since the Christmas season is in between, it becomes extremely difficult and often only emergency solutions remain.
For example, in year one it could be played in groups of four, according to a clear organizational scheme. In year two the corresponding return matches would take place. And in the third year, the final games with eight teams and three game days for the two top-placed teams of the group and for the last two teams in the world group the relegation games with the advancement candidates. Also in groups of four, with three matches. And in the Olympic year the DC does not take place. This is good and necessary for the schedule.
This way you organize the substructure, European, Asian and American Zone Groups, since there are already intelligent solutions. It would be too much to present everything here and in addition the ITF should also have to put in some time and thoughts themselves.
It is clear, and Mister Haggerty and the ITF must recognize, that they do not own the players. They earn their money on the ATP and WTA tour. Just as the football players earn their money in their clubs. But tennis players love Davis Cup and Fed Cup if they are reasonably organized. Money rarely plays a role in the decision to play for your country but as a professional athlete you must pay attention to your health and to your career. A professional athlete has that responsibility.
If the ITF and its president Haggerty thinks that they can make more money with a neutral final then their thinking is completely wrong. The players will not be there to compete in these events, they only will have the feeling that everything is done on their backs. Even the fans will not support it. For fans real home games have a special charm. And what will remain at the end is no income for the ITF.
The DTB has a close contact with its players and I didn’t have any discussions about money with respect to Davis or Fed Cup in the years I am involved. Our athletes have always made themselves available for their country and not for money. I hope that for many years I will be able to follow these great team events in Germany. I hope that the ITF does not miss out on these opportunities and takes the chance for the good of all nations, for the well being of the athletes and for the well being of our beautiful sport.
Could The ATP Cup Move Tim Henman Closer To Davis Cup Captaincy?
The former world No.4 sheds light on if he would like to lead his nation in a more permanent role in the future.
LONDON: A day after three world No.1 players spoke out about the ATP Cup, it was Tim Henman’s turn to face the media at The O2 Arena on Friday.
The 45-year-old will lead the British team in the inaugural event at the start of 2020. Placing him in a national team captain role for the first time in his life. He was nominated for the position by three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray, who spoke with him just over a month ago. The two have known each other since Murray was a teenager.
“If I’m honest, it was not something that I had given a great deal of thought at that stage,” said Henman.
“Then when we did discuss it, I think there are lots of reasons why I accepted, and I think one of the reasons is Andy. I have had a great relationship with him for a long, long time.”
As it currently stands the former world No.4 will lead a team of five players. Besides Murray, Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie, Jamie Murray, and Joe Salisbury have all committed to the event. Which has a prize money pool of $15 million and up to 750 ranking points for those who win the title without losing any matches.
Henman’s selection came ahead of Leon Smith, who has been the British Davis Cup captain since April 2010. Smith, who guided his country to the Davis Cup title in 2015, has been in contact with Henman about his new role.
“Leon is someone that I have known for a long, long time. He’s done a fantastic job in Davis Cup.” Henman states.
“From my point of view, I’m very excited about the ATP Cup, but this isn’t in any way a stepping stone for me moving into other things. I don’t want to do that. I’ve got enough, other commitments with my family, with Wimbledon, the partners that I work with.”
The four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist appears adamant when he plays down a future role in the Davis cup, which has a new format from this year. However, he admits that should he shine in Australia next year, it could persuade him to change his mind in the future. Two out of the three captains before Smith (John Lloyd and Roger Taylor) didn’t take on the role until after their 50th birthdays.
“As I sit here now I don’t have an aspiration to be Davis Cup captain. It’s in a new format now, but certainly before when the time commitment was going to be much more significant it was never something that really appealed to me.’ Henman explains.
“But talking specifically about this event, I’m really looking forward to and I think there are so many exciting aspects of it.’
“Once the event has happened, then I will have time to reflect and see what I want to do going forward.” He added.
The ATP Cup will start on January 3rd. Britain has been drawn in the same group as Belgium, Moldova, and Bulgaria. They will kick off their campaign in Sydney on the opening day of the tournament against Bulgaria, who is being captained by Grigor Dimitrov.
Henman’s Davis Cup player record
|First year played||1994|
Novak Djokovic Confident Elbow Scare Will Not Hamper Davis Cup Duty
LONDON: Novak Djokovic’s niggling elbow issue briefly resurfaced during his last match played at this year’s ATP Finals in what was a slight scare for the camp of the 16-time grand slam champion.
The world No.2 was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Roger Federer, who he last lost to back in 2015. It was far from a vintage performance from the Serbian, who appeared somewhat flat on the court. Potentially suffering from the after-effects of his three-set thriller with Dominic Thiem that occurred two days prior.
“There was not much that I did right this match, to be honest. I mean, realistically he was a better player in all aspects and absolutely deserved to win.” Djokovic told reporters in London.
“He served great, moved well, returned my serve very well. From his end, I think he did everything right. From my end, I was just playing too neutral. I couldn’t read his serve well. Just a pretty bad match from my side.”
It was during the match where some started to notice the 32-year-old flexing his elbow at certain points. Raising fears among his entourage. In the past, he has experienced numerous issues with that area of the body. Missing the second half of the 2017 season to rest his elbow and undergoing minor surgery on it the following year.
Nevertheless, Djokovic continued on the court and was never on the verge of calling for a trainer on the court. However, concerns are starting to mount about if he could miss the upcoming Davis Cup in Madrid to avoid aggravating it further.
“I hope it’s nothing that will prevent me from playing Madrid. The pain was pretty sharp.” He revealed.
“I could play the rest of the match, so if I had something really serious I think I wouldn’t be able to hold the racquet. So it was probably just an awkward, quick movement that I did. It did not pose any form of issues later on.”
Djokovic hasn’t played in the team tournament since his country’s quarter-final loss to Spain in 2017. He has represented Serbia in 25 ties. Winning 34 out of 44 matches played. Speaking about the event during the same press conference, he then said ‘things are physically fine.’ Disregarding the elbow scare he spoke about just minutes before.
“Of course the gas tank is not as full as the beginning of the season, but I am motivated to join the guys and play there because I have not played in the team competition of Davis Cup for some time.” He said.
“I look forward to it. They are my dear friends, all of the guys in the team, and I can’t wait to feel that team spirit. The format is different. Should be exciting.”
Now his 2019 season on the ATP Tour has come to an end, Djokovic closes the year out with five titles. Including Wimbledon and the Australian Open. His 54 wins mean that he has won 50 or more matches in 12 out of the past 13 seasons.
Only three players have managed to score multiple wins over Djokovic in 2019 – Roberto Bautista Agut, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem.
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.
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