EXCLUSIVE: Davis Cup Revamp Continues To Draw Concern From Britain's Barmy Army - UBITENNIS
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Davis Cup

EXCLUSIVE: Davis Cup Revamp Continues To Draw Concern From Britain’s Barmy Army

One of the UK’s most prominent Davis Cup supporters group has spoken to Ubitennis about the radical changes coming to the competition.

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Next year will see the Davis Cup enter into a new era following a radical overhaul that has split opinion in the world of tennis.

For the first time in history, the men’s team tournament will take place during two stages of the year. In February will be a series of qualifying rounds where home and away ties will take place. The winners will then travel to Madrid to play in a week-long tournament held at the Caja Magica in November. A 18-team event that features 12 qualified teams, the four semi-finalists from the previous year and two wild cards. A controversial move that has angered some countries due to loss of the ability to host the finals on home soil.

It isn’t just the team that has their concerns, it is also their fans. The Stirling University Barmy Army (SUBA) has established themselves as one of the most loyal and prestigious fan groups of British tennis. Founded in 2009 by Jamie MacDonald, former president of Sterling University, more than 120 people have attended Britain’s Davis Cup ties on behalf of the SUBA. Overall, they have attended 19 ties, including the last 12.

“The loss of regular home and away ties which therefore reduces the amount of tennis played in the UK restricting the opportunities for fans to go and watch the team.” McDonald told Ubitennis about the concerns they have about the new Davis Cup format.

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The SUBA has already stated their public opposition to the new-look event. Earlier this year, 88.9% of members voted against the reforms. Expressing concerns about the negative impact it will have on costs and travelling for British fans.

The driving force behind the Davis Cup changes are investment group Kosmos. A company that was founded by Barcelona F.C. footballer Gerard Pique. They have pledged to invest $3 billion over the next 25 years in a move they claim will see national tennis associations recieve more money. Kosmos’ plans came to life in August after being approved by a vote at the International Tennis Federation’s AGM meeting.

“We welcome new funding and new people to the sport. It is up to the sport’s governing bodies to regulate this and ensure that any changes to the sport are made in the best interests of tennis.” Said McDonald.

The ‘Change It Back’ Campaign

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After being awarded a wildcard into next year’s final, Great Britain will not play a Davis Cup tie on home soil until 2020 at the earliest. Leaving the SUBA in an uncertain position on if they will be able to cheer of their team from the sidelines next year. The group last missed a tie in 2014, when Britain took on America in San Diego.

“Less people will get to see live tennis which is a huge problem for the sport.” McDonald commented about the Davis Cup Finals.
“We would like to go to the finals but this depends on being able to access tickets and the cost of flights and accommodation not proving prohibitive.

Andrew McCrea is a member of the SUBA. Like McDonald, he is also concerned about the negative impact the new Davis Cup could have for fans of the sport. He is also a supporter of the #ChangItBack campaign on Twitter. Which urges the Davis Cup to revert back to their original format.

“The people who are involved in this are just a group of Great Britain Davis Cup fans (made up of people from a variety of supporters groups such as the Murraynators, We Are Tennis Fan Academy, British Association of Tennis Supporters etc) who initially just got in contact with one another via social media and brainstormed ideas as to what the fans could do to try and make their voices heard, and I’m actually the only person involved here who is in the Barmy Army.” McCrea explained.
“A few of us came up with the idea of tweeting the #ChangeItBack hashtag on posts relating to the Davis Cup, and these people have over the last month or so has been trying to contact other people who they think may be interested in getting involved.”

McCrea believes the new format will result in certain areas of the UK missing out on chances to engage in the sport. The Scottish city of Glasgow has hosted four ties since 2015, including their year’s clash between Britain and Uzbekistan. In September 3000 school children from schools across Glasgow was invited to watch the British team practice.

“It’s special for the players as well as they don’t get the chance to play professionally in their home country very often.” He said.
“The GB team also did a hugely successful Tennis for Kids Day a couple of days before the Uzbekistan tie last month – which is a brilliant way to try and get children inspired to take up tennis. With the new format they won’t be able to do this anymore.”

From a fan perspective, some fear that due to the finals being extended to a week it will put people off travelling to the event. At present, the Davis cup finals are contested between two teams and take place between Friday-Sunday. Kosmos has previously said that they have an attendance target of 200,000 for the 2019 finals.

“I don’t think the idea of having a one week finals event is a good idea at all from a fan perspective in terms of the arrangements they need to make in order to attend it, because the fans will need to provisionally book the full week off work, etc. (plus a day or two both sides of the week for travel) and also accommodation for the full week.”

The ATP Threat

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Amid the Davis Cup fallout, the ATP is quietly working on the rebirth of their team event. From 2020, the World Team Cup will be hosted in Australia at the start of each year. Besides prize money, ranking points will also be up for grabs. Something the Davis Cup is unable to offer. Should there be no adjustment to the calendar, both events will occur within two months (at the end of one season and at the beginning of the next). Meaning that some players may have to prioritise one over the other.

“There is no reason why tennis cannot have more than one team event.” Said McDonald.
“Tennis needs variety and at the moment nearly all tournaments are the same format. We (SUBA) welcome ingenuity and new ideas.
“What we are concerned about are changes to a 118-year-old competition that has served so many fans so well.” He added.

Some are concerned that the World Team Cup could be the start of the end for the Davis Cup. Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have indicated that they will prioritise the ATP’s event. Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev is the first player to confirm that he will skip the 2018 Davis Cup Finals due to its ‘crazy scheduling.’ Adding to the fiasco, the ITF and ATP are yet to find a common ground when it comes to their tournaments.

“If the new Davis Cup format does turn out to be a complete disaster, there may come a time that the ATP World Team Cup could completely take over as the main men’s national team event and could kill of the Davis Cup for good.” McCrea warns.

The 2019 Davis Cup finals will take place between November 18 to 24.

SUBA quick facts

  • Founded in 2009
  • First tie attended – GB vs Ukraine Euro-Africa Zone 1 tie in Glasgow (2009)
  • First away tie attended – GB vs Italy (2014 World Group quarter-finals)
  • Founder Jamie McDonald is the head of the group since
  • Most members they ever had at one tie – 45 (GB vs Argentina in September 2016)
  • Average number of members they have at each tie – between 20 and 40 people.

Davis Cup

Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Asks For Patience Ahead Of November Edition

Davis Cup Finals tournament director Albert Costa is asking for patience as he believes the tournament will be an overwhelming success

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Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Albert Costa has asked fans for their patience ahead of November’s edition. 

The new format will see 18 teams compete in Madrid in November for the Davis Cup trophy with many people criticising the reforms.

However tournament director Albert Costa has asked tennis fans for patience as he believes in time the Finals will be a success, “After all, it’s one of the great competitions in the world of sports, very attractive, unique and novel for everyone, and for the players it will be a very attractive format,” Costa explained in an interview with Radio Marca.

“I do not see that it will go wrong, people have many expectations, that the first year is complicated and there may be some doubt, but I think it will be a success, I have no doubt. It comes out as we hope we will have patience and we will organize the second edition in a better way, but we do not contemplate that it does not go well.”

The Spaniard is also looking ahead to the future and is in current discussion to make the Fed Cup a combined event with the Davis Cup in the future, “The Federation Cup is a two-year project, we will see if it is viable, but we have it in our heads,” Costa explained.

“We are still negotiating and talking with the ATP to do a joint event and then a larger one of men and women, it is a project but it is not a reality yet. There are opinions for everyone, the changes always generate doubts and we have to show that the competition is attractive to everyone.”

The Davis Cup Finals takes place on the 18th-24th of November with a weakened field expected as Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev will all not participate in Madrid.

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Davis Cup

Gerard Pique Responds To Criticism From Lleyton Hewitt Over His Involvement In Davis Cup

The 32-year-old is hoping that he can prove critics wrong with the new controversial format.

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Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has told The Daily Mail he ‘respects’ the opinion of Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, despite being heavily criticised by the former world No.1.

Pique is the head of the company that is overseeing the transformation of the Davis Cup. Later this year 18 teams will play in a week-long showdown that has been dubbed the ‘World Cup’ of tennis. The revamp, who was approved by a vote last August, has divided opinion within the sport. Australia has been one of the most vocal critics of the revamp with Hewitt taking aim at Pique last month.

“Now we’re getting run by a Spanish football player, which is like me come out and asking to change things for the Champions League,” Hewitt told reporters. “He knows nothing about tennis.”

Responding to the comment for the first time, Pique has tried to cool down the argument. Stating that he has no intention of ‘changing the rules of tennis.’ Although under the new format, Davis Cup matches are now best-of-three sets and the finals will see three matches played per tie instead of five.

“I respect the opinion of Lleyton, he was a great player. What I can say is that while I’m the President of Kosmos we are full of people who know tennis, people like Albert Costa, who has won a Grand Slam.” Pique told The Daily Mail.
“I can understand that when a footballer comes in the tennis world it can seem a little bit awkward or strange, but at the end of the day I’m not going to be changing the rules of tennis. I understand that I’m the new one here and I try to understand everyone. In the time we are living now it is easy to say whatever you think. If it’s with respect it’s fine.”

Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion into the new competition over the next 25 years. Their backers include Indian Wells Masters owner Larry Ellison, Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani and even football superstar Lionel Messi. As a result of Ellison’s involvement, Indian Wells have been mentioned as a strong candidate to hold the Davis Cup finals in the future. Although the logistics may be hard if the ATP Finals continues to be held in London. In the current schedule, the Davis Cup finale takes place straight after the ATP Finals.

“It is something we are talking about and it’s a possibility,” Pique commented about Indian Wells as a venue.
“You have pros and cons, we chose Madrid because it’s next to London. Indian Wells is far away but the facilities are incredible.”

Due to the involvement of the Barcelona F.C. footballer, the competition is referred by some as the ‘Pique Cup.’ Something that doesn’t go down too well with the 32-year-old.

“I hate it, because it’s not about me and I don’t want my name on the competition,” he said. “Davis Cup history is so big. I hope we can change this opinion. After a few years I hope they go back and say “We were wrong, Davis Cup is more alive than ever.”

The Davis Cup finals will be played between November 18-24.

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Davis Cup

ITF, Kosmos Confident Controversial Davis Cup Revamp Will Be A Hit As Draw Is Unveiled

The groups for the the finals of the team tournament has been decided with ITF President Davis Haggerty describing the event as ‘traditional, whilst having innovation.’

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The draw has taken place for the inaugural Davis Cup finals with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reiterating their support for the controversial new format.

On Thursday evening, 18 teams learned which group they have been placed in during a special ceremony in Madrid. In November 18 teams will participate in a week-long tournament held at the Caja Magica in what will be a historic change to the competition. The changes have been made after the plans was voted for in August by the majority of national tennis federations (71%). Although critics argue the change is too radical and kills the Davis Cup. There has also been heavy criticism regarding the decision to hold the finals at a neutral venue.

“Davis Cup is all about keeping tradition whilst having innovation at the same time.” Said ITF President David Haggerty.
“All of us have a special place in your heart for the Davis Cup, we all care about it. But where we are going with the Davis Cup is going to elevate it and make it better.” He later added.

There will be a total of six groups in the finals with three teams featuring in each one. Reigning champions Croatia has been placed alongside home favourites Spain and Russia. France, who were runners-up in 2018, will take on Serbia and Japan. Meanwhile, wild card entrants Great Britain has been given a favourable group alongside Kazakhstan and the Netherlands. The winner of each group and the two best second placed countries will progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.

THE GROUPS
Group A: France, Serbia, Japan
Group B: Croatia, Spain, Russia
Group C: Argentina, Germany, Chile
Group D: Belgium, Australia, Colombia
Group E: Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Netherlands
Group F: US, Italy, Canada

Overseeing the competition is investment firm Kosmos, whose 25-year $3 billion investment was pivotal is changing the Davis Cup. The company was founded by Barcelona F.C. footballer Gerard Pique. Who has generated both admiration and hate from the tennis community in recent months. Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt recently told reporters, ‘Now we’re getting run by a Spanish football player, which is like me come out and asking to change things for the Champions League.’

“I have been a fan of tennis since I was a kid. I saw the Davis Cup as an opportunity for a competition that can be great in the future.” Pique said in Spanish during the draw ceremony.
“I think we (Kosmos) are a great partner for the ITF to organise this competition and we truly believe that in the future, starting from this year, it will get better and better.”

Whilst there is enthusiasm, winning over die hard fans is proving to be a harder than expected. ITF chief Haggerty was questioned about the critics during the presentation, but refused to let it overshadow proceedings.

“I would encourage those people who are concerned about it to come to Madrid and see for yourselves.” He said.

The Davis Cup finals will take place between 18-24 November. All ties will consist of two singles matches and one in the doubles. All matches will be best-of-three sets.

Davis Cup Finals schedule

Day Round Number of teams
18–21 Nov (Monday–Thursday) Round Robin 18 (6 groups of 3 teams)
22 Nov (Friday) Quarterfinals 8 (6 group winners + 2 best second place)
23 Nov (Saturday) Semifinals 4 (automatically qualified for 2020 Davis Cup Finals)
24 Nov (Sunday) Final 2

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