A war of words over the proposed changes to the Davis Cup is intensifying with European officials and associations casting doubts over the legitimacy on the plan.
Later this week a vote will take place at the annual ITF AGM meeting over the proposal. The ITF has set out their vision of implementing a 18-team tournament that takes place over one week at the end of the year. Consisting of 12 qualifiers, the previous year’s four semifinalists and two wild card nations. Unlike the current format, the finals will be held at a neutral venue and best-of-five set matches will be scrapped. Investment company Kosmos, which is owned by Barcelona F.C. footballer Gerard Pique, has pledged to invest $3 billion over 25 years if approved.
At a glance the injection of finance appears like a win-win situation for the ITF. The Davis Cup is in need of financial support and they have somebody willing to assist them. The only problem is that concerns have been raised over the reliability of Kosmos’ financial pledge and the impact it may have.
“When you come to the point when a “reform” is not a reform any more, but rather sees financial goals as its principal objective – that is where the troubles will start.” Tennis Europe vice president Attila Richter told Telegraf.rs on Monday.
“When the matter of funding of proposed Davis Cup reforms is in question – once the initial awe with the huge quoted sums has subsided and the breakdown was analyzed in closer detail – a considerable shortcoming has been detected, which would actually see the majority of national federations receiving insufficient money from the competition in order to maintain their role as sole developers of the game of tennis in their communities worldwide.” He later added.
Tennis Europe has already voiced their opposition to the new Davis Cup last week. Its president, Vladimir Dmitriev, wrote in a letter to 50 European tennis federations that he ‘cannot see the real benefit for European nations or for tennis in general.’
The ITF has worked relentlessly to try to reassure its critics that the deal is the best for the team competition, which started back in 1900. Insisting that it will benefit federations across the world. Although for some nations, it is the tradition of the event that means the most to them.
“There’s a real risk for the Davis Cup, that this competition will be reduced to an ordinary meeting in front of a public without real knowledge of the game.” The Belgian Tennis Federation said in a statement.
“This new Davis Cup will resemble more of an Olympic Games without medals, a Hopman Cup which lacks a special atmosphere or the late world tennis cup without much encouragement, because of the lack of popular interest behind it.”
Dirk Hordorff, who is the vice-president of the German Tennis Federation, was more blunt in his words. During an interview with BBC Sport, he has accused the ITF of trying to ‘kill’ the event. It is understood that the ITF has held meetings with the German federation in recent weeks, but it is unclear if they will vote for or against the revamp.
“It will kill the Davis Cup,” Hordorff told the BBC.
“You cannot make an event which is more or less an exhibition, after the Masters in November, and expect the players to come,” he added.
“We all know how many players are injured and unavailable to play in the Masters, so to have another event after that doesn’t make any sense if you want to have the players.”
Poland is another country concerned about the changes. Victor Artuchowski, who is the vice-president of the Polish Tennis Federation, said that a member of his federation was told to vote in favour of the deal otherwise ‘the ITF will be bankrupt.’ There has been talk in recent weeks about the Davis Cup struggling financially, but no substantial evidence to back that theory has come to light. A Source from the Polish Federation has indicated to Ubitennis that the country will vote against the proposal. Along with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, who are likely to oppose the changes according to another source.
There is some positivity from certain European members. One of the biggest backers of the plan is France’s Bernard Giudicelli, who is the president of his country’s federation. Even though both Yannick Noah and Amalie Mauresmo has spoken against it. Mauresmo is the current French Davis Cup captain.
In Great Britain, they are yet to make a decision of what they will vote. Although Stuart Fraser from The Times has reported that the LTA is ‘leaning towards the proposal.’ A significant win for the ITF if true. The country is one of five countries to have a maximum of 12 votes. Along with Australia (voting against), France (voting for), Germany (unknown) and the USA (voting for).
A vote on the Davis Cup revamp will take place on Thursday. It requires two thirds of the votes in order for it to be approved.
Later this week Ubitennis will be publishing an exclusive article about the purposed Davis Cup changes with views from both journalists and tennis federations.
Roger Federer Cast Doubt On Return To Davis Cup
The Swiss Maestro addresses his future in the team competition.
20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer has admitted that there is a chance that he may not play in the Davis Cup again before he retires from the sport.
The former world No.1 hasn’t played in the team competition since 2015. This year the event has undergone a major revamp with the help of financial backing from investment company Kosmos. In November 18 teams will travel to Madrid and play in a week-long round-robin format. Removing the tradition of home and away ties. Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will be playing in the event.
One of the most notable absentees from the event will be Federer as Switzerland hasn’t qualified for the finals. However, the 38-year-old has in the past voiced his concerns over Gerald Pique’s involvement. Pique is the founder of Kosmos.
“I put in a lot of energy into the Davis Cup over the years.” Federer told reporters in Shanghai.
“I played a lot of matches. It’s been a lot of work. Winning (the title) in 2014 was a dream come true for Stan and me and the team, and Rosset, even though he was not on the team, he thought it was the greatest thing ever, and it was.”
Federer has represented his country in 27 Davis ties during his career and has won 52 out of 70 matches played. He has won more matches in the competition than any other player from his country. Whilst boasting a strong record, Federer admits that he is uncertain about playing in the event again.
“I have not officially retired from the Davis Cup, so that means I don’t know what to tell you, maybe, but obviously more likely no than yes, as I’m getting older and I have other things I would like to also do and go to places I have never played before.” Federer replied when asked about his future in the Davis Cup.
“It’s one thing and then having the four children and the wife is another. I just can’t be everywhere. I always said when you play the Davis Cup you have to miss out on Masters 1000. Is that worth the give? Not always. Not for me anyway.”
In recent years Federer has applied his focus to another team event – the Laver Cup, which he co-founded. From 2020 there will be three team tournaments taking place on the men’s tour every year due to the revival in the ATP Cup in January.
“Federer was the only player reluctant to play this new Davis Cup.” Pique told Spanish TV programme e ’El Hormiguero’.
“He has the Laver Cup too and, whatever you say, there is bound to be some competition.
“It is not easy. We are there working and I think that in the end we will understand each other.”
The Davis Cup finals will get underway on November 18th at the Caja Magica, which is the venue of the Madrid Open. Meanwhile, at the same time Federer will be going on a tour of South America where he will play a series of exhibition matches. Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin del Potro will join him on parts of the tour.
Juan Martin Del Potro Hits Back At Claim Made By Pique Over Davis Cup Involvement
It had been claimed that the former top 10 player was pondering playing in Madrid later this year.
The team of former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro has denied that he has been involved in talks with Kosmos to play in the revamped Davis Cup later this year.
It had been claimed by Kosmos founder Gerard Pique that the Argentine has been in negotiations about playing the event, which has undergone a change in format. In November 18 teams will travel to Madrid to play in a week-long group competition. Similar to that of the football World Cup. A move that has divided opinion in the sport with critics arguing that the change is too radical.
“We are talking with Del Potro, (but) it obviously depends on the injury, see how he returns. But yes, we are in permanent contact with him.” Ubitennis’ Spanish-language site quoted Pique as saying.
Pique, who plays football for Barcelona F.C, was caught on audio saying the statement. However, it has now been suggested that he has either misspoken on even lied about del Potro. A statement issued by Del Potro’s communications team stated that no such thing has happened.
“TeamDelpo clarifies that there were no negotiations between the Kosmos Group and Juan Martin del Potro about the next Davis Cup in Madrid.” Their statement reads.
“We deny in this way the journalistic versions that speak of economic arrangements, “approaches”, “departures” or “concrete offers.”
The 30-year-old hasn’t played a match on the ATP Tour since injuring his knee at the Fever-Tree Championships in June. The latest setback for the injury-stricken player, who has undergone five surgeries since 2014. Del Potro is set to start his latest comeback in Europe at the Swedish Open, which will start on October 14th.
It has been rumoured that during the Davis Cup finals, Del Potro could play Roger Federer in an exhibition match in his home country on November 20th. Federer is another high-profile absentee from the team event. The potential clash has been reported by Argentinian journalist Danny Miche in his podcast. However, it is understood that nothing is finalised as of yet due to various economic factors.
There has been no response so far from Kosmos regarding Del Potro’s statement.
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Gerard Pique Sheds Light On Chances of Roger Federer Returning To Davis Cup
The Swiss maestro is the only member of the Big Three not to feature in the revamped event later this year.
There is a 50/50 chance that Roger Federer could play in next year’s Davis Cup finals, according to Kosmos founder Gerard Pique.
The Barcelona F.C. player has confirmed that talks are ongoing about the former world No.1 featuring in the historic event, which has been revamped this year. For the first time in it’s 119-year history, the finals will take place over a week and feature 18 teams taking part in a round-robin format. The change has split opinion in the sport, but was given the green light at the ITF’s annual AGM meeting last year. Pique’s investment company Kosmos is a key financial backer of the changes.
One notable absence from this year’s finals, which will be held in Madrid, is Federer. The former world No.1 has in the past been a critic of the new format. Once saying the tournament has been designed for ‘the future generation of players,’ but not him. He has also warned against the team competition being turned into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term the Spaniard is not a fan of.
“I wanted since the first moment I arrived in the tennis world, is to try to help this sport.” Pique said during an interview with Sport Business.
“Switzerland has not qualified for November so even if Roger wants to play in this event, he cannot, but we are talking with him and his agent to discuss the possibility to play in 2020.”
As is currently stands, Federer is the only member of the big three not to be playing. Rafael Nadal has vowed to play if healthy and Novak Djokovic announced his attendance on the eve of the US Open. The Serbian had previously expressed his reservations over participating due to its close proximity to the ATP Cup, another team event that will kick-off in January.
“I just feel like the date of the Davis Cup is really bad, especially for the top players. Between the two, I will prioritize the World Team Cup because that’s a competition of ATP.” The world No.1 said last year.
So why has Djokovic decided to play in Madrid? When asked in Flushing Meadows he said he wanted to represent his country. However, Pique believes there is more to it than that. Saying that he had managed to persuade the Serbian following conversations between the two.
“I said to him, ‘I know you are an ATP player but at the same time you represent the federation of Serbia, which is part of the ITF which invests in young talent and the future of tennis. I think it makes total sense that you participate in both competitions because it is a message that at the end of the day that you want [for the ATP and ITF] to work together.”
One criticism of the event is the timing of the finals. They will take place between November 18-24, the week after the ATP Finals in London. Partly eating into what is already a relatively short off-season for many players on the tour.
ITF President David Haggerty is hoping that negotiations over a potential change in dates can be made in the future with the new leader of the ATP. Current CEO Chris Kermode will be leaving his position later this year after failing to receive enough backing in a ATP board meeting.
“There is leadership change coming and once that’s completed we will continue discussions to see what’s the best date.” Haggerty outlined.
“We need to have the first Davis Cup finals in November and the ATP Cup will be in January and then we will have more facts and have a good discussion.”
The inaugural Davis Cup finals will be held at the Caja Magica. The same venue as the Madrid Open, which takes place annually in May.
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