Stuff The Lack of Tradition, The ITF’s World Cup Tennis Finals Proposal Is Full of Problems - UBITENNIS
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Stuff The Lack of Tradition, The ITF’s World Cup Tennis Finals Proposal Is Full of Problems

skip schwarzman

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If you are a dedicated follower of tennis you know that on Monday, February 26th the International Tennis Federation (ITF) proposed radical changes to the 118 year old international Davis Cup competition, in cooperation with Kosmos Investment Group, who’s pumping a $3 billion investment into tennis over the next 25 years.

 

You can find our history of the Davis Cup here. The proposed new format is below (and in the Davis Cup history, too):

  • The establishment of a season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals (WCTF) that crowns the Davis Cup champions.
  • The WCTF is played at a neutral site, chosen well ahead of time, and lasts 7 days.
  • 16 countries go to the WCTF based on their performance to date, similar to the current World Group. These 16 countries, plus 2 that are selected by the ITF, are placed into 6 round robin groups of three teams each.
  • The 6 winners of the round robin groups, plus the two teams with the best losing records, are fed into a quarterfinal knockout tournament.
  • The winner of the knockout rounds is the year’s Davis Cup championship team.
  • All team competitions consist of 2 singles matches and 1 doubles match, all matches are best of 3 sets.
  • Promotion/relegation rules will again be in place, giving national teams not part of one year’s WCTF to gain entry in following years

••••••••••••••••

Davis Cup moving to a 1 week event at the end of the year is LONG overdue. Now just make it every other year and we are cookin.

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This proposal’s changes from current Davis Cup, summarized:

  • The home/away match setting is eliminated in favor of a site chosen well ahead of the WCTF dates, which would likely be a neutral site (but does not have to be)
  • Best of 5 matches are reduced to best of 3
  • The current competition’s 4 singles matches at each team meet – opening day + Sunday’s reverse match-ups – are reduced to 2 singles matches
  • Next year’s 16 teams competing in the WCTF are known almost a year ahead of time
  • Two teams are entered in the WCTF, the new format’s version of the World Group, by being selected, not via competition

I’ve written about why I believe the calls to change Davis Cup are generally bogus. It’s not necessary to go through that again. The fact is this ITF proposal is full of fundamental problems, inherent in the proposed structure, and the ITF’s proposal conveniently glosses over all of them.

(1)  How in the world are the players expected to compete at the pace of the schedule being proposed?

The WCTF – an 18 team construct of 6 round robin groups feeding a quarterfinal knockout draw – is to take place over 7 days.

In every round robin group of three each team plays two matches. Therefore each team’s player has two matches. This happens in the first 3 days. Two matches in 3 days, an OK schedule for a professional tennis player.

But then the quarterfinal matches follow, when a player has 1 additional match for each knockout round; meaning 3 matches for the players on the two finalist teams. Finalist team members will play 6 matches in 7 days, a schedule more grueling than any Grand Slam or Masters tournament, and that’s without considering how to fairly schedule teams for day and/or night matches throughout the week.

If the WCTF actually happens, somehow, it’s not hard to imagine there’ll be something like Tiebreak Tens introduced to solve this scheduling nightmare, distancing the WCTF even further from its storied Davis Cup history and competitive roots.

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Jurgen Melzer‏ @jojomelzer Feb 26 Replying to @MardyFish

I usually agree with u… but not on this one… smaller countries losing their chance to see their stars on home soil…plus home & away atmosphere is gone…wasn’t that what DC was all about?

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(2)  What site, anywhere, has the facilities required by the WCTF?

To simultaneously play the WCTF’s six round robin groupings you need at least 3 stadium courts, if not six. The WCTF could get by with 3 if they play two different team-duels per stadium, one in the afternoon session and another in the evening.

Beyond that, with 18 teams you need at least 9 practice courts; with two teams sharing the same court, 8 players practicing for 90 minutes requires 12 hours of a single court’s availability.

Outdoors? I have one word for that idea: rain.

Indoors? Only Melbourne and Madrid have three covered stadium courts. And the practice courts would have to be indoors as well, and reasonably close to the stadiums.

All together, a site will need a minimum of 3 stadium courts and 9 full-time practice courts. An outdoor-only site is unacceptable due to the chance for rain to wreak havoc on the schedule.

(3)  National squads of only two players will be made extinct as far as the WCTF round is concerned.

While only a few such squads have had success winning the Davis Cup – Czech/2012 and 2013, Croatia/2005, to name two – no two players could compete for all the matches required to come through the WCTF. Smaller countries, unable to field a team of two strong singles players plus a solid doubles pairing, will never be able to break into the WCTF.

(4)  The home/away flavor of the competition will be lost.

 There are theoretical plusses to the idea of a neutral site announced well ahead of the competition’s actual dates: more sites are available when there’s more time to plan (subject to #2, above), and fans have more time to arrange travel plans.

But the hew and cry among Davis Cup combatants over this change tells us that we’ll be losing something truly special. They’re upset at losing the chance of playing at home, of being lifted to victory on the wings of a hometown’s encouragement. They bemoan missing the chance to notch a huge win at an away match while battling both the other player and the hometown crowd.

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Tim Mayotte‏ @TimMayotte Mar 1

I want 2 invite all Davis Cup players, former, present, to tweet their favorite moments playing 4 their nation. @USTA, @USDavisCupFans, @ITF_Tennis. Mine was playing in Mexico City in a Bull Ring with Mariachi Band. 15,000 crazed fans! Scent of bull fights in the red clay.

••••••••••••••••

(5)  The WCTF format banks on a national team’s fans committing to travel to a neutral site; no team’s fans will be in a hometown setting; each team’s level of audience support will depend on how many choose to travel. What cannot be calculated is how those fans will allot time for their tennis holidays. Will the finalist teams have any fans left on site to fill the stands, or will they have booked return travel before the finals, not knowing if their team was going to make it that far or not? Will other teams’ fans bother to take their seats at the final? Will television really pay to broadcast scenes of empty stadiums?

(6)  The WCTF looks to expand tennis’ reach via television. Asia is already proposed as the neutral site for the first year, 2019. Will significant worldwide tv audiences tune in, given the time differences? For the sake of discussion we’ll use Beijing as a potential site. Consider:

 2 PM/Beijing/on Thursday is:

  • 1 AM New York City / Thursday
  • 10 PM Los Angeles / Wednesday
  • 6 AM London / Thursday
  • 3 AM Buenos Aires / Thursday
  • 9 AM Moscow / Thursday

Aside from the time zone issue, no one’s demonstrated that tv’s tennis audience is large and rabid enough to make weekday viewership a solid bet; not a lot of tennis eyeballs driving tv advertising ratings at 1 AM in NYC on a Thursday.

(7)  A week’s competition means teams will have to arrive at least 2 or 3 days ahead of the first day’s matches; 10 days. The ATP November calendar already has the end of the Paris Masters, and the Next Gen Finals followed by the Nitto ATP Finals. Where will the WCTF fit in?

Admittedly Davis Cup already takes up 4 weeks of the annual calendar; one in January, one in April, the third in September, and the finals in November. Those weeks would be freed up. Current Davis Cup ties begin on Friday and end on Sunday. That necessitates players’ arrivals on Wednesday, with departures on Monday. So, in truth, Davis Cup “weeks” right now are less than a full 7 days, though subject to individual choices. The WCTF’s playing schedule requires 7 days of competition plus early days for practice and acclimatization, all in a month that’s already jam-packed. Some serious juggling of the ATP’s current tournament calendar will be required.

(8)  At the World Tour Finals, with its similar format of round robin play that feeds a knockout round, criticism has already been leveled at a competitor’s chance to take a strategic loss, on purpose, to give them a better position in the knockout round. Does tennis want to create yet another scenario that calls into question how hard fought a contest really is?

a) In a 3 team round robin group, each team could finish with 1 win and 1 loss; how to determine who’s won?

b) If there are round robin groups whose losers have similar outcomes, how will the ITF determine who have the two 2nd best team records?

Will we have to count sets won, games, points? It may happen that teams have the same numbers…then what you do, flip a coin?

••••••••••••••••

The spirit of the Davis Cup will be forever gone.

– Amelie Mauresmo 

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(10)  Two of the 18 WCTF teams will be selected? What does that mean? How will they be selected? On the basis of team charm? Written essays? Swimsuit competition?

What happened to the idea of sport being a meritocracy?

All I can say is, “sheesh.”

 

My thanks to Ubaldo Scanagatta for pointing out a number of the match scheduling and won/lost calculation problems in the WCTF proposal. Also to Graham P for the linguistic consultation.

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Nadal, Djokovic And Federer Excelled On Manic Monday And That Isn’t A Good Thing

Why the dominance of the trio at Wimbledon should be admired, but not celebrated.

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WIMBLEDON: On a day where all the fourth round matches took place at The All England Club there was an inevitability in the men’s draw.

 

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic all proved why they are the top three seeds. Producing a display that overwhelmed and frustrated their opponents. The trio along with Andy Murray have won the past 16 Wimbledon titles. A true testament to their dominance in the sport. On the other hand, it is also a somewhat mixed situation for the world of men’s tennis.

“I wasn’t feeling so good about my strokes, my serve, my forehand, backhand, everything. I wasn’t feeling so good, I didn’t expect to be tight, to be maybe not ready, but not like this.” Matteo Berrettini said following his loss to Federer.
“I was saying to myself that it was normal, for me, it was my first time on Centre Court against him.”

The brick wall put up by the Big Three at The All England Club can only be compared with the Great Wall of China. A gigantic structure that requires a huge effort to conquer it. Yet it is possible to scale it and people have done before. So there is one question that arises. Is the Big Three too good or are their challengers on the court not good enough?

World No.1 Novak Djokovic shed some light on the situation shortly after his straight-sets win over Ugo Humbert. The only member of the Next Generation to reach the last 16 of the tournament. Djokovic has been a giant in the world of grand slam tennis within the past 12 months. Winning three titles and reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

“I think we are working as hard as anybody really to be there. I think the experience we have helps confidence, everything that we have achieved in our careers obviously we carry onto the court, then most of the players feel that, feel the pressure.” He said.
“For us, it’s another match on the center stage that we’ve experienced so many times. I think that’s one of the reasons why we, I guess, feel comfortable being there and managing to play our best consistently.”

Experience certainly pays it part. 14 out of the 16 players to reach the fourth round are over the age of 27 and eight of those are over the age of 30. However, when the older guys of the tour has had a shot on Manic Monday in the past against the Big Three they fell short. What is it that they are doing wrong?

“I think the best guys now are fully engaged, they know exactly what to expect from the court and the conditions. That helps us to play better.” Explains Federer.
“I think with experience, that’s good. We haven’t dropped much energy in any way. It’s not like we’re coming in with an empty tank into the second week.’
“All these little things help us to then really thrive in these conditions. I don’t know what else it is.”

Fortunately, Federer and Co are human. Even if it is hard to believe when they illustrate such breathtaking tennis at times. Serena Williams describes Federer’s play as that similar to an elegant Ballerina. The way he moves around the court effortlessly and dictates the points.

One people aiming to rain on the parade of the big guns is Sam Querrey. A 31-year-old American who reached the semi-finals of the major back in 2017. Against Tennys Sandgren on Monday, he produced 25 aces and won 83% of his first service points on route to victory. Setting up a clash with Nadal. Somebody who he beat in their last meeting back in 2017, but trails their overall head-to-head 1-5.

“In order to kind of break that streak, it’s most likely beating Rafa, Federer, Djokovic. The mountain gets very steep from here to break that trend, but I’m going to do the best I can.” Said Querrey.
“I like playing here (at Wimbledon). I’m comfortable here. This seems to be the slam where you’ve got odd results, if you want to call them, over the, you know, last 25 years.”

In an era that is dominated by a selected group of players, there are both admiration and frustration among both players and fans. Their achievements have been incredible, but when will a fresh face live up to the hype on a consistent basis? Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are all huge threats. Just not on a regular enough basis.

“I am not thinking about sending a message about the next generation, how they are coming or not. I know they’re good.” Nadal stated.
“I know there is going to be a day where they are going to be in front of us because they will play better than us or because we are leaving (the sport), we are not kids anymore. That’s all.”
“It is special what we achieved in the last 15 years. Something special, difficult to repeat I think, so many titles between three players. But sometimes these kinds of things happen.”

Men’s tennis is undoubtedly in the midst of a unique period with some of the greatest ever players taking to the court’s. However, is their dominance too much of a good thing?

Only time will tell when the trio retires and men’s tennis are left facing the prospect of trying to fill in their shoes. A task that is as exciting as it is terrifying for the next contingent of players.

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Wimbledon: Where The Young Guns Of Men’s Tennis Failed To Deliver

The grass promised to be a surface where shocks could occur. Instead, the future stars of the sport endured a nightmare.

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photo by Roberto Dell'Olivo

WIMBLEDON: There was a sense of optimism that this year’s Wimbledon Championships would see the younger protagonists of the men’s tour finally have their breakthrough. In reality, it was a tournament filled with disappointment for almost all of them.

 

Heading into the second week of the grass-court major only two players left are under the age of 25. Ugo Humbert at the age of 23 and Matteo Barratini at 21. It is a sharp contrast to the women’s draw, which has been shaken by the rise of 15-year-old Cori Gauff. Two-time French open finalist Dominic Thiem, multiple Masters champion Alexander Zverev and Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas all fell at the first hurdle.

“I lost my first rounds ’99, 2000, had a run in 2001, then lost first round again 2002. I don’t know if it was because of lack of experience.” Federer reflected about the misfortunes of his younger rivals.
“The panic can set in quickly on this surface. I don’t know if that’s got something to do, and if age calms the nerves there. I’m not sure. I think also it’s maybe a moment in time.”

John McEnroe had previously tipped Tsitsipas to have a deep run at The All England Club. Commenting about the Next Generation earlier this week, the former world No.1 told BBC TV he ‘was still waiting for them to come.’ To a certain extent, he is correct. Although they have previously shined on the ATP Tour winning titles. So what makes grand slams so much harder?

“We know how hard it is to beat Novak, how hard it is to beat Rafa here. Me, as well.” Federer explained. “I have a great record here. We obviously also have better draws because we’re seeded, and we’re away from the bigger seeds earlier.’
“Our path to the fourth round is definitely not as hard as maybe some of the younger guys on the tour, as well.”

Grand slams are played in a best-of-five format. Some would argue that the longer matches can take it tolls on the rising stars of the game. However, the likes of Boris Becker and Rafael Nadal has achieved major success before their 20th birthday. Furthermore, the development is sport science in recent years have been a massive boost for helping players develop.

So maybe the real problem for Zverev and Co is themselves. 18-year-old Felix Auger Allissme, who is the youngest player to break into the top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt back in 1999, fared better at Wimbledon. Reaching the third round before going out to Umbert.

“Pressure got to me, and… it got to a point where it was a bit embarrassing,” The Canadian said following his loss. “It was just tough. I just wasn’t finding ways. I think he just did what he had to do. It was solid.”

For Tsitsipas, he had another explanation for the series of below-par performances. Saying that all of the Next Gen contingent lack consistency on the tour. There are currently six played in the top 50 under the age of 21. Three have those have managed to reach multiple semi-finals of the ATP Tour so far this season – Tsitsipas (6), Auger-Aliassime (5) and Taylor Fritz (3).

“We’ve seen players my age, many years ago. I would like to name Rafa, Roger, seemed very mature and professional what they were doing. They had consistency from a young age. They always did well tournament by tournament without major drops or inconsistency.” The Greek explained.
“Something that we as the Next Gen players lack, including me as well, is this inconsistency week by week. It’s a week-by-week problem basically, that we cannot adjust to that.”

The younger stars of the sport will eventually win at grand slam level. The only thing to wonder if will that happen before the Big Four retire from the sport? Novak Djokovic was just 20 when he won his first title at the 2008 Australian Open. For him, he can relate to the misfortunes of his opponents.

“I remember how it was for me when I won my first slam in 2008. For a few years, I was No.3, No.4 in the world, which was great, but I wasn’t able to make that next step in the Slams and win Slams. I know how that feels.” Said Djokovic.
‘There is time. I understand that people want them to see a new winner of a Grand Slam. They don’t want to see three of us dominating the Slam titles. Eventually, it’s going to come, in about 25 years, then we’ll all be happy [smiling].’ he later joked.

Seven days into Wimbledon, Berrettini and Umbert are left flying the flag for the future generation of the men’s tennis. Both of those will play a member of the Big Four on Monday. Berrettini plays Federer and Umbert faces Federer. It remains to be seen if they can silence critics with a shock win.

Wimbledon fourth round players by age

Roger Federer SWI – 37
Fernando Verdasco ESP – 35
Rafael Nadal ESP – 33
Novak Djokovic SRB – 32
Roberto Bautista Agut ESP – 31
Mikhail Kukushkin KAZ – 31
Sam Querrey USA – 31
Joao Sousa POR – 30
Benoite Paire FRA – 30
Guido Pella ARG – 29
Kei Nishikori JPA – 29
Milos Raonic CAN – 28
David Goffin BEL – 28
Tennys Sandgren USA – 27
Matteo Berrettini ITA – 23
Ugo Humbert FRA – 21

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Bad Boy Nick Kyrgios Is Both Controversial And A Hit With Fans At Wimbledon

Like his career, Kyrgios’ first round win was anything but ordinary at The All England Club. Not that this is a bad thing for the sport.

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Nick Kyrgios of Australia is pictured in action during day four of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 19, 2019.

WIMBLEDON: In the era of the Big Four it takes somebody unique to be able to attract mass interest at a grand slam and Nick Kyrgios without a doubt fits into that category.

 

Known for his unpredictable behavior, the Australian has previously been sanctioned for throwing a chair, allegedly tanking and even lobbing his racket outside of the court. At the same time, he has scored high-profile wins over players such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

During his first round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday, Court Three was packed with fans wanting to see Kyrgios’ clash against compatriot Jordan Thompson. At one stage there was no room for any members of the media to enter. Shouts of ‘come on Nick’ erupted throughout the marathon encounter, which ended with Kyrgios prevailing 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(10), 0-6, 6-1. Setting up a potential blockbuster meeting with Rafael Nadal if he wins his first round match.

“It was incredibly tough,” Kyrgios said following his 213-minute clash. “I think coming into today, Tomo (Thompson) is probably one of the most in-form grass courters of the season. He made his first final in S’hertogenbosch. He’s obviously feeling pretty comfortable on the grass.”

The 24-year-old illustrated why he is one of the most popular characters in the sport during his first round match. At first, it looked as if the world No.43 would be crashing out in no time. Rushing between points and struggling to find any consistency in his play. However, as the match progressed, so did Kyrgios’ level and commitment. Much to the frustration of his opponent and the delight of the British crowd.

A series of failed tweener shots alongside serves exceeding the 130 mph benchmark pretty much summarised his performance. Playing around on the court, Kyrgios undoubtedly entertained everybody with his antics. Prompting laughter on numerous occasions.

“I just go out there, have fun, play the game how I want it to be played,” Kyrgios explained.
“At the end of the day, I know people are going to watch. They can say the way I play isn’t right or he’s classless for the sport, all that sort of stuff. They’re probably still going to be there watching. Doesn’t really make sense.”

It is hard to argue with Kyrgios’ statement when you look at the media back in his home country. Playing at the same time as women’s world No.1 Ash Barty, Channel Seven opted to broadcast live his match instead of hers.

The drama

Of course, it would not be a Kyrgios match if there wasn’t drama. After the second set, he took a medical time out for treatment on his hip/back region. Soon after his fragile temperament was exposed as he grew annoyed by members of the crowd.

“They’re bringing a camera the size of a tennis racket to the court and it’s sunny. Maybe the lens is shining in their eyes. I don’t know. You know?” He said to the umpire.

Following on from that a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct came before a poor line called triggered him off once again.

“I’m playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars out here. Why is the linesman not getting fined? Tell me. Why?” He stated.

Despite those outbursts, Kyrgios still had the crowd fullying backing him. Further proof of his popularity. A 22-point tiebreaker in the third set revived his momentum on the court after prevailing on his eighth set point. Causing more anguish for Thompson. Fittingly the match ended in appropriate Kyrgios style with him getting bageled before racing through the decider. Something he admitted was a ‘tactic.’

Should Kyrgios face Nadal next, it is almost certain their clash will be played on Center Court. The Australian may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it is clear that he is a force in the sport.

“I think everyone just goes about their business the way they are. I think that the sport has a serious problem with that. I mean, just because I’m different, I go about it a different way, it causes a stir.” Said Kyrgios.
“I understand that people are different and people are going to play differently. If everyone was the same, it would be very boring, no?’
“I mean, I don’t think there’s a shortage of entertainers. I just think people go about it differently. Different perspectives. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to understand that.”

Love him or hate him, Kyrgios has zero plans of changing his ways.

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