The date of August 16, 2018 could be one that remains in the history of tennis forever. This will not be due to some exceptional achievement by the likes of Rogers Federer or Rafael Nadal. In fact, the date will be when the future of the Davis Cup will be decided. The oldest and most prestigious team tournament in men’s tennis. Delegates from national tennis federations around the world will gather in Orlando (United States) for the annual AGM meeting of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Voters have two options. To back the new initiative supported by Davis Haggerty or oppose it.
If the majority vote yes, what will change? For those who had not followed the debate in recent months, the ITF has issued a statement in which clearly outlines what is at stake in Florida. If the reform passes, from 2019 the structure of the Davis Cup will undergo the following changes :
- The establishment of a final in the neutral field in a European country
- The establishment of the qualifications for 24 teams in February with tie at home and away
- The winners of the qualifications will enter the final, the losers will end up in the zonal groups
- The final will involve 18 teams: 12 who have qualified, four semi-finalists of the previous year and two wild cards. It will consist of 6 groups, followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final
- The 6 winners of the groups plus the two best second in terms of set and game won will enter the quarterfinals
- The 2 teams classified 17st and 18th will be relegated to the zonal groups while the 12 classified between the fifth and sixteenth position will return to the qualifications
- Ties played in the final will consist of two singles and a doubles, all played in one day
- Ties played in Zonal groups 1 and 2 will consist of 4 singles and a doubles, played in two days
- The singles and doubles matches at all levels will be the best-of-three sets, with tie-breaks also in the decisive set
In short, it is a revolution for a competition with over a century of history: no more challenges at home and away when it counts, no more marathon five-set matches. Of course the Davis Cup may not be the same any more. Behind this radical structural reform, there is a partnership project between the ITF and the Kosmos investment group, chaired by footballer Gerard Piqué. A 25-year deal worth 3 billion dollars, of which 23 million would go to form the annual prize money to be divided between teams (⅔) and federations (⅓). The promise of an endorsement from Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and patron of the Indian Wells tournament, has come to reinforce an already considerable firepower. Perhaps with the prospect of hosting the competition in Indian Wells after the first two editions on European soil.
But how many chances are there for the reform to pass? To answer this question, we need to understand how the individual representatives of the federations will vote. Concerning the vote about the Davis Cup, not everyone will have the same weight . The countries are divided into 6 categories according to the number of preferences they can express.
- 5 countries with 12 votes for a total of 60 (countries hosting Slams plus Germany)
- 14 countries with 9 votes for a total of 126 (Argentina, Italy, Spain, Canada, Russia among others)
- 7 countries with 7 votes for a total of 49 (Croatia and Serbia among others)
- 14 countries with 5 votes for a total of 70 (Austria, Belgium and Poland among others)
- 25 countries with 3 votes for a total of 75
- 82 countries with 1 vote for a total of 82
Calculator in hand and taking into account a full turnout, the preferences should therefore be about 460. Considering that the reform requires two thirds of the preferences, the magic threshold for President Haggerty is about 300 votes.
Besides the US, it will count as much to have the support of smaller countries. Calculating the blocks of countries with either one or three votes, all those added up could be worth half the votes needed to bring the reform home. To them the money promised by external sponsors should be very appealing, but Haggerty certainly cannot afford an uprising from the bigger federations. With their weight, the delegates can completely overturn the direction of the vote. And for some of them the desire to keep the traditional Davis format intact could count more than the promises of lavish economic returns.
After a first analysis, it seems difficult to hypothesize the trend of the vote. The first three weigh (235 votes), roughly the same as the last three (227 votes). Some federations have, however, officially or otherwise been exposed to the issue of reform. Meanwhile, others have not publicly declared their decision. .
Ubitennis has turned to journalists from around the world, who were very happy to provide us with information to make a prediction before the vote. On Wednesday we will give a full account of their views in the second part of this article.
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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