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



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.


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.


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?


(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.


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 


(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.


A Rude And Silly Reply From Nadal, I Am Waiting For His Apology

I asked Nadal an innocent question about his wedding; he took it so badly that he eventually burst into an offensive: “That’s bullshit”



LONDON – I was really surprised by Rafael Nadal’s reaction to a question that was quite innocent and totally legitimate. A reaction I consider unbecoming of him, rude and silly. I sincerely hope he will extend his apology for this behaviour. Respect remains paramount, no matter if you are the greatest champion or the new kid on the block. In front of everybody, Rafa disrespected me.


I hadn’t seen him since the Laver Cup in Geneva. And in the meantime,… he had gotten married. I had no intention whatsoever to ask a particularly original question or, as I have seen written in some tweets, to “show off”. And I certainly didn’t want to provoke him. Maybe the question did not come out the way I wanted: we always need to be concise during press conferences, and you cannot explain all the details, but what I wanted to ask was simply for him to explain whether the days around his wedding day had been emotional, different from the normal routine made of trainings, forehands and backhands. That’s all, no malicious innuendos, no desire to be irritating or original. I was just curious about what I considered a special moment in his life. Getting married is usually not like taking a walk in the park, even when it is possible to rely on a full team taking care of the arrangements – I assume that was the case for him – and there aren’t many details you have to worry about.

I am sorry I am forced to report such an ill-advised behaviour by Rafa Nadal of all people. He is a champion and, before that, a young man I have always appreciated, with whom I have had a good relationship ever since I saw him play for the first time in Montecarlo. He was just 17 years old, and one night he finished his match against Albert Costa very late, playing under the floodlights, in front of a scattered crowd, when most reporters had already left the Country Club to attend the traditional soirèe the tournament organizes every year at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club, next to the Jimmy’z.

This is the video footage of our exchange at the end of his English-language press conference, before the question time reserved for the Spanish press. Our dialogue starts at 10:50.

In essence, I asked Rafa if by any chance his wedding had been a disrupting element, albeit solemnly important, to his routine. This is the transcript of our interaction, with my notes in brackets.

Q. Tonight you were playing very short many times. I don’t know why, because you’re not used to that. I’d like to know, for many people to get married is a very important distracted thing (in the life of a man and a woman, it was implied) before the marriage, during the marriage, after the marriage. I’d like to know if somehow your concentration on tennis life has been a bit different even if you were going out with the same girl for many, many years (I was implying that it wasn’t love at first sight, I understand it didn’t turn his life upside down, but it still could have had some distracting effect, with the King of Spain being present and all… It wasn’t a small family wedding)

RAFAEL NADAL: Honestly, are you asking me this? Is a serious question or is a joke? Is it serious?

Q. It’s serious. (Off microphone.) Is not something that happens every day (at that point I had no microphone any longer so my retort was not captured by the official transcript), you can experience strong emotions, your parents, your wife, yourself…

RAFAEL NADAL: Okay. I surprise, is a big surprise for me you ask me this after I have been with the same girl for 15 years and having a very stable and normal life.

Doesn’t matter if you put a ring on your finger or not. In my personal way, I am a very normal guy.

Maybe for you was (did he want to add ‘different’) — how many years you have been with your…

Q. Wife 30 years this year.

RAFAEL NADAL: And before?

Q. (off microphone) 5 years

RAFAEL NADAL: Ah, maybe before you were not sure. That’s why (he smiles to the rest of the press room and he adds). Okay. Okay. We move to Spanish, because that’s bullshit. Thank you very much.

Unfortunately, due to some background chatter in the interview room I didn’t hear the “bullshit” word, I just read it on the transcript after a few colleagues made me notice he disrespected me. In fact, as soon as I went back to the press room, all colleagues, French, Swiss, even Spanish expressed their support to me because my question was perfectly legitimate, it was not engaging, mean, embarrassing or indelicate. So much so that when Rafa asked me whether it was a joke or a serious question, I immediately replied “It’s serious”. I was surprised he even had to ask.

The fact that Rafa has been together with Cisca, Francisca, Maria Francisca or Mer for 15 years does not imply that the days around his wedding, with 300 guests, friends, the King of Spain Juan Carlos ans other sporting legends were just like a walk in the park. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know whether Rafa’s parents, or Meri’s parents or some of their close friends cried, were moved to tears, experienced all those emotions that are normally coupled with weddings.

If Rafa did not experience any emotions just because he has been with the same woman for 15 years, that’s his problem. As far as I am concerned, maybe I’m just more romantic, or softer, but I thought it would be normal to get emotional in tying the knot with the woman of your life in front of so many people; an important, unforgettable moment. People usually live that day as a very special day. Rafa does not hold back expressing his emotions when he wins an important point on court – over and above his “vamos”, his jumps and his fist pumps – if his wedding day was a routine experience for him, but just the formalization of his union by exchanging rings with his fiancée… well, I am sorry for him. I don’t know what Xisca thinks about it. Judging from Rafa’s response, there should be no enthusiasm or emotion capable to upset his routine, when getting married after having been with the same woman for 15 years. He was even surprised when someone, like myself, asked him about possible emotions on his wedding day. I am stunned. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but I feel I should point this out because of the way he treated me. 

To put it simply, I could not believe that even after dating the same woman for 15 years, the day before the wedding could be completely routine, without any emotional involvement. This is why I asked the question, without thinking it could be misinterpreted, or considered a joke, even less labeled as ‘bullshit’. 

Perhaps Rafa was nervous because he had just lost a match (6-2, 6-4 without ever getting a break point) against an opponent he had always defeated before, Alexander Zverev. This could partially justify his behaviour, but he had not given any signs of nerves during the previous questions. I have always considered him an intelligent person. But sometimes even intelligent people make mistakes or say silly things. But they apologise afterwards. I hope Rafa is going to do it, sooner or later. If he won’t, never mind. But he will not make a very good impression to me or to all my colleagues, including the Spanish reporters from Puntodebreak and Eurosport who came to talk to me immediately after the incident. 

I want to stress once again that my curiosity about how he may have reacted to an important moment in his life that I didn’t believe could be seen as a mere formality, was entirely innocent. He didn’t understand it, I hope someone will explain him, even if this for sure will not be an important moment in his life. Even if, in some way, we have been knowing and seeing each other for 15 years.

Article originally published in Italian on


NOTE TO OUR READERS – In reference to the exchange occurred between myself and Rafael Nadal during the press conference following his first match, I have had a clarifying meeting after his win against Medvedev. We both have acknowledged the reasons that led to the misunderstanding and the subsequent exchange of unpleasant words, mainly due to our imperfect knowledge of the English language. This is it. We’ll turn the page, for everyone’s satisfaction, and Nadal and I maintain the mutual respect that has always been a cornerstone of our relationship. Our readers are naturally free to form their own opinion on this event, but at this stage any further comment would appear unnecessary. Thank you for your attention. (Ubaldo Scanagatta)

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Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month Significance

Annually, around the world, those who served in their country’s military are remembered for the commitment they made to insure freedom. Usually tennis players are feted for their success on court. Many of them have been heroes on other fronts. Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month calls attention to those who have made a difference.



In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day. It was a day to honor all the US military veterans who served their country. It should not be confused with Memorial Day, which recognizes all those who perished while safeguarding the nation.  


Armistice Day had originally been called Remembrance Day. It was first observed in 1919 in the British Commonwealth, recognizing the armistice that ended World War I on Monday, November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is especially significant because it ended what had been thought to be the war to end all wars. Sadly, it wasn’t, but the day has been set aside to honor those who helped keep the world safe from tyranny.  

An all-star collection of tennis players served their country during World War II. The Gestapo arrested Jean Borotra one of the famed Four Musketeers in November of 1942. He was sent to a German concentration camp and then to Itter Castle in Austria. In a battle for the castle, he escaped and played a role in the subsequent victory that was earned. 

Stade Roland Garros was stained by having served, from 1939-40, as an “centre de rassemblement”, an internment camp for political dissidents and foreign nationals. Those euphemistically “housed” at the facility lived and slept in “the caves” beneath the stairwells at what is now Court Philippe Chatrier. Present day players have said they can feel their ghosts while waiting in the corridor to walk onto Chatrier to compete in their matches.

Yvon Petra was the last Frenchman to win Wimbledon and the last men’s champion to wear long pants in The Championships final in 1946. Becoming a Grand Slam singles winner is especially commendable since he was held prisoner in a German camp for two years after he was captured in 1940, in Alsace, France during the invasion. He seriously injured his left knee attempting to avoid capture. Ironically, because he had competed in Germany before the war, he was recognized as someone notable which resulted in a doctor being sent from Berlin to treat his injury.

Tom Brown spent WWII in a tank… with a tennis racquet. He never really said if the racquet was a constant reminder of his pre-war on-court success and inspired him at Wimbledon in 1946. But, having just traded his Army khakis for white tennis shorts, he was a Wimbledon semifinalist, losing to Petra 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 8-6.  

Art Larsen, who was nicknamed “Tappy” because of his habit of tapping things for good luck, played tennis as therapy. A talented lefthander, he was mentally scarred because he had participated in the landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day in WWII. After the war, he recalled the terror of watching US planes mistakenly bomb US troops thinking they were German forces. He admitted after surviving without a scratch, his behavior became even more eccentric because he had witnessed that terror.  (Then they called it shellshock, but now it is referred to as PTSD.)

Of all the famous players who served with distinction, none could match Gardnar Mulloy. Mulloy was a naval officer who commanded a LST32 (Tank Land Ship) in the Mediterranean during WWII. In 2015, the year before he passed away, Mulloy received a French Legion of Honor an accolade for his involvement in the operations that took place in Italy and the Provence area in France. The recognition made him the oldest recipient of the order since it was created by Napoleon.

Robert (Bobby) Abdesselam, a great junior player prior to WWII, and later the President of the French International Tennis Club from 1993 until 2004, played a role in the landing of the Allied Forces in Algiers in 1942. As a member of the French Expeditionary Corps, he served as a liaison officer in the Italian campaign. His courage was rewarded when he received the Cross of War (1939-45) and a US Bronze Star.

It is impossible to adequately pay tribute to all of those who, over the years, have made their country better through military service. In early September, the US Open took a monumental step by recognizing those in the services by celebrating Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day. (Hunt was the 1943 US National singles champion who lost his life when his Navy Hellcat, a WWII combat aircraft, went into a deadly spin on a training flight off the Florida coast in early 1945.)

But, there are so many others who have been overlooked. Individuals who put their lives on the line around the world in places like Korea, Vietnam, in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan to name but a few of the conflicts since WWII. So many were killed but even more have slipped back into civilian life unsung and unrecognized, forced to ignore the scars that often don’t show. Anyone who served his or her country should be recognized every day, because they are the reason we can breathe free. 

They deserve much more than one day a year gratitude. Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month Honorees are among us twenty-four/seven. They should never be forgotten because they sacrificed so much so that we can remain free.

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Andy Murray Is Going In The Right Direction

Andy Murray came from a set down to pass another test against France’s Ugo Humbert to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, at the European Open on Saturday. The former world No.1 is through to his first singles final since Dubai 2017. Edging closer to his first singles title after coming back from a second successful surgery on his hip.



Andy Murray – ATP 250 Anversa (foto via Twitter @EuroTennisOpen)

It seems that Andy Murray, who wasn’t sure whether he would be able to compete again at the beginning of the season this year, is finding his way back very well these days.


The Scot commenced his comeback slowly and carefully by playing doubles with Spain’s Feliciano Lopez at the Queen’s Club Championship in June. Where they both clinched the title in a very positive comeback for Andy, who seemed at the time very eager to play tennis again though he wasn’t completely ready for big stages as he always used to.

A couple months later in Zhuhai, he got his first singles win on tour since his comeback, which was followed by a loss to world No.26 Alex De Minaur in 3 sets. Taking on the US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini in the opening round at China Open was a real challenge and a good test for the former world No.1 to evaluate how everything is going on. He passed in two sets in what was a good indication that everything is going in the right direction. Then he got past his countryman Cameron Norrie in three sets before falling to Thiem in two.

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He lost after Beijing in Shanghai to Fabio Fognini in the second round during a very exciting match. Including some clashes between both of them with Murray losing his game when he was serving for the match in the decider set.

Even if he didn’t get any significant result there, playing such long matches against top players is an essential part in the build-up process for his game mentally and physically.

“It’s just difficult in tennis, because you don’t get the opportunity to just come in and play one set like you might in other sports and build up your fitness by playing a little bit longer each time. You need to get it through playing matches and maybe at that stage I just wasn’t quite ready physically for long matches. But now obviously my body’s getting a little bit more used to it and coping fairly well.” Said Murray about his improvement.

In Antwerp this week, the Scot seems to be getting better as he got four singles wins in a row, so far, for the first time since his comeback. In other words the number of matches won consecutively in one week increases as he plays more which is a good indication that his body is getting used to it more and more and recovers faster, yet he still needs some time to reach his highest level. Having played long, intense matches in the quarter and semi finals against Marius Copil and Ugo Humbert today, which could have some effect on his physical readiness against Wawrinka. Who reserved a spot in the final by beating Jannik Sinner (6-3, 6,2). Both players dropped two sets on their way towards the final with Murray playing an additional match.

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Whether the Scot lifts his first single trophy since 2017 on Sunday or not, he is definitely getting in there with a very good rate. Considering he was thinking of retirement earlier this year than having a hip replacement surgery afterwards and now competing in such a level and one step away from a single title, that is a huge success. Moreover, he is getting more confident and mentally tougher which is shown clearly in the last two matches; surviving from a very tight situation and keeping cool in a very crucial moments.

Speaking about his aspects of the game, his defensive game has improved very fast. It’s been a fundamental part of his game throughout his career. He is trying to level up his offensive shots and turning from the defensive to the offensive when possible, especially on fast indoors courts, which would normally take more time as he’s gaining more confidence. Yet Murray needs to work hard on his serve, especially his second serve which costs him a lot of points sometimes very crucial ones.

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