EXCLUSIVE: Former Davis Cup Heroes Speak Out On New Changes To Competition - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Former Davis Cup Heroes Speak Out On New Changes To Competition

Ubitennis speaks with Mats Wilander, Thomas Enqvist and Mark Woodforde about the new format of the team competition.

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This weekend will see the start of a new era in men’s tennis as the revamped Davis Cup kicks off with the qualifying rounds taking place.

 

24 teams will battle it out for 12 places in the final of the competition in what is the new format of the event. Following approval at the ITF AGM in August, for the first time in history the finals of the competition will take place in one location over a week. A total of 18 teams are set to take part – 12 qualifiers, the four semi-finalists from the previous year and two wild cards.

The transformation has been far from simple with some players and their national association’s voicing opposition. Critics argue that the changes are too radical, ruins the tradition of the 119-year-old event, the scheduling eats into the off-season and the financial pledges that has been made are dubious. Investment firm Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion over a 25-year period with a promise that countries would receive more money. Something that has previously been disputed by the head of Tennis Europe.

Perhaps the best way to gage an idea of the current situation is to consult with those who has played in the competition for years. Thomas Enqvist has had the opportunity of being both player and captain for his country. The Swede compiled a win-loss record of 15-11 in the competition and won both of his singles matches during the 1996 final.

“Speaking from a player point of view, I think that all of us would say that it is a big honour to represent your country. My best memories in tennis come from the Davis Cup.” Enqvist told Ubitennis.

Sweden was one of the countries that voted for the revamp of the competition, according to a list published by the vice-president of the German Tennis Federation. The ITF never published a list of the countries that voted for or against the plans. Arguing that this was done for confidentiality reasons. Nevertheless, 44-year-old Enqvist is remaining cautiously optimistic about the changes. Arguing that people need to wait and see before they can judge.

“I think we have to give them time. We have to see. They have tried to put something on to make sure that all the top major players can play. Hopefully it’s going to be a good choice.” He said.

For Mats Wilander, the Davis Cup is one of the biggest events in a player’s career. Wilander is a former world No.1 player, who represented his country in 27 ties over a 14-year period. He helped secure the Davis Cup trophy in the final of the competition three times throughout the 1980s.

“The only reason why I am playing tennis is because of the Davis Cup.” Wilander states.
“The effect the Davis Cup has had on pretty much every player that is here today. My generation, the generation before and the generation after. The effect of the Davis Cup is much bigger than the effect of grand slams because you are watching your nation play.”

The ATP threat

If the changes aren’t enough to contend with, a new tournament poses as a potential threat to the existence of the historic competition. 2020 will see the resurrection of the World Team Cup. Overseen by the ATP,  who governs men’s tennis, the event has on offer ranking points and a prize money pool of $15 million. The tournament will be held at the start of each year, less than two months after the Davis Cup finals, in three cities across Australia.

ATP CEO Chris Kermode has previously insisted that the World Cup is not a threat to the other team events. At the official launch in November, Kermode told a crowd of reporters ‘There seems to be a fixation that the ATP Cup has caused the issue with the Davis Cup and this is not the case. If the ATP Cup didn’t exist, the Davis Cup still wouldn’t have a week in the calendar.’

Taking those words at face value, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Should there?

“I think only time can tell. Maybe both can prevail. I have no idea.” Enqvist admitted.

Wilander is more up front with his views. For him, the decision of hosting the Davis Cup finale in a neutral country might come back to haunt the ITF in the future. Saying that the new format has unnecessarily placed the event in a competition with the ATP Cup.

“The ATP Cup is about the team of a country’s players. The Davis Cup has a brand and it’s not about the team, it’s about the country.” He explained.
“If Davis Cup goes to a neutral ground, then there is a big competition (with the ATP Cup).
“My suggestion would be that the semi-finals and finals have to be played home and away. Whereas the first two rounds can be played during a week on a natural ground.”

The removal of the home and away element to the Davis Cup finals may have a negative effect on the younger audience, instead of their goal of trying to make it appeal more to that target market. A somewhat ironic outcome. Wilander warns that under the new situation, less children might be inspired to participate in tennis.

“Would what be the effect if, lets say, Belgium plays away on a neutral ground? What will be the effect and inspiration for the kids in Belgium. Are they even going to watch it? Because they don’t watch Wimbledon, they don’t watch the US Open, they don’t watch David Goffin lose in the quarter-finals or semi-finals of the French Open. But they will watch Belgium play at home in Belgium, maybe even away in somewhere like France. That will inspire them.”

Woodforde’s call for calm

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Throughout the entire situation, Tennis Australia has been one of the most vocal opponents. Earlier this week, team captain Lleyton Hewitt slammed Kosmos founder Gerard Pique. Telling reporters that it was ‘mind boggling’ that the competition was being run by somebody who had little knowledge about tennis. Hewitt was among a group of individuals from Tennis Australia that signed a letter last year condemning the changes.

Not all people from Australia are against the change. Mark Woodforde argues that action had to be taken before it was too late. The 53-year-old is regarded as one of his country’s greatest ever doubles players, winning 12 grand slam titles in men’s doubles and a further six in the mixed. Alongside Todd Woodbridge, the pair won more doubles matches (14) in the Davis Cup than any other Australian duo.

“I didn’t want to see the Davis Cup competition disappear and that was my biggest fear.” Said Woodforde. “If there wasn’t any changes to make it a significant event again, we wouldn’t have a Davis Cup competition at all.”

Elaborating further, Woodforde argues that there will be a more ‘exciting’ element brought to the Davis Cup. Something others dispute.

“I believe it is the same Davis Cup book, but a different chapter. I think it’s going to be exciting. It’s innovative.” He said.
“I think there has been more negative comments about the format and the competition hasn’t even started. Those pessimist out there, I like to think that a lot of good things are going to be happening top the competition.” He added.

The opinions of Enqvist, Wilander and Woodforde are ones that reflects the current situation in men’s tennis. All are passionate about the sport, but trying to find a common ground seems to be a tough task. If the legends of the sport can’t reach an agreement, what hope does the rest have?

The future of men’s team competition is complexed and unclear. The only certainty is that disagreements and arguments between the key figures in the sport will continue for the foreseeable future. Whether we like it or not.

 

Davis Cup

(VIDEO) Ubaldo Scanagatta On A Week To Remember For Canada At The Davis Cup

The CEO of Ubitennis also shares his view about the format of the tournament and how he thinks it can be improved.

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MALAGA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 27: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2022 at Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena on November 27, 2022 in Malaga, Spain. (Photo by Pedro Salado/ Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

Canada has become the 16th nation to win the Davis Cup after producing a clinical performance against Australia in the final on Sunday. Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime both eased through their matches in straight sets to claim an historic victory for their country.

 

Watching the matches unfold from the sidelines was Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta who gives his verdict on events that has taken place in Malaga over the past week.

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Davis Cup

Canada Says There Are No Clear Favorite To Win Davis Cup After Reaching Final Four 

After suffering a surprise opening defeat, Canada managed to find their footing to keep its chance of winning their first Davis Cup title alive in Malaga. 

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Image via Kosmos media

This year’s Davis Cup champions will be decided with the help of a ‘little bit of luck and execution,’ according to the captain of the Canadian team. 

 

Canada secured their place in the semi-finals on Thursday by edging their way past Germany 2-1 after battling back from behind. The tie began with a shock loss for Denis Shapovalov who fell 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), to Jan-Lennard Struff who is currently ranked more than 100 places lower than him in the ATP rankings. However, the North American nation managed to level the tie with the help of Felix Auger-Aliassime who beat Oscar Otte 7-6(1), 6-4. 

With all to play for, the tie was decided by a critical doubles match that saw Shapovalov return to the court alongside Vasek Pospisil. Their opponents were the formidable Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puertz who had an 8-0 record in Davis Cup matches when playing together and had clinched the winning point for their team on seven occasions. The German duo started the stronger before Shapovalov and Pospisil battled back to prevail 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Sending Canada into the semi-finals of the Davis Cup for the first time since 2019. 

“Today (Thursday) was a perfect example of Davis Cup at its finest,” said Canadian captain Frank Dancevic. 
“It was amazing to watch. They showed so much heart going into the match. At the beginning of the match, it was tough to find the rhythm. But once they found the rhythm and once they got in the groove, they played lights out. They played amazing. Took control of the match.” He added.

Canada made their Davis Cup debut in 1913 but they are yet to win the title, finishing runners-up on two occasions. The last time they reached the final was three years ago when they were beaten by Spain in Madrid. 

Standing in their way of another place in the final this year is Italy who defeated the USA 2-1 in their quarter-final tie on Thursday. The other section of the draw will see Croatia take on Australia. Canada might be the only team in the quartet yet to win the trophy but Dencevic believes there is no clear favourite in this year’s tournament. 

“I don’t think right now everybody is playing incredible tennis, and there is so much that can happen in three matches with singles and doubles and there is so much diversity that I wouldn’t say there is a favourite team right now.” He said. 
“Out of the four teams, everybody is really good. We have to put ourselves in the position to win. Everybody’s going to be in the position to win. It’s just about who is going to execute at certain moments in the matches, and it will come down to a little bit of luck and a little bit of execution, but I think it’s very even throughout the field. We are all amazing teams going into the semis.”

Canada’s Semi-final clash with Italy will take place on Saturday. Croatia will play Australia later today. 

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ATP

Davis Cup Becomes Part Of ATP Calendar In New Partnership

The ATP and Kosmos have collaborated over the Davis Cup ensuring it’s place on the ATP calendar.

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In Tennis First, ATP Joins Kosmos And ITF To Form Strategic Alliance Supporting Davis Cup.

 

The 122-year-old Davis Cup will officially become part of the ATP calendar from 2023 following a historic agreement between two of the sports principle bodies.

The International Tennis Federation, who are the principal organizers of the team event, has reached an agreement with the competitions financial backers Kosmos and the ATP Tour to form a strategic alliance. The aim of the new partnership is to focus on the governance and the evolution of what is the oldest team competition of the sport.

Under the agreement, the ATP will occupy two out of the six seats of the newly formed Davis Cup events committee which also includes Kosmos, ITF, long term investors and promoters. In a press release issued on Monday, organizers say their collaboration is aimed to ‘maximize the success of the historic team competition as the men’s World Cup of Tennis.’

The Davis Cup will become officially part of the ATP Tour calendar from 2023. It will take place during weeks 5, 37 and 47. Similar to an agreement made with the Laver Cup a couple of years ago, there will be an increase in marketing the event among ATP channels.

The announcement also ensures that they are committed to giving players prize money for the finals, offering 15 million dollars to players competing in the Davis Cup Finals.

Speaking in the announcement ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, ITF president David Haggerty and Kosmos Tennis CEO all were excited about this new collaboration:

“Our focus is always on creating the best possible experiences for our fans and players. Delivering compelling international team competitions that dovetail with the year-round calendar and continue to innovate is a vital part of that,” Gaudenzi said.

“This announcement heralds an important new alliance between the ITF, Kosmos and ATP which further strengthens the importance of team competition and Davis Cup’s unique role in elite men’s professional tennis,” Haggerty added.

“It is a very important agreement for all three parties and especially for the players. In the last three years, the format of the competition has been improved to reach a greater number of fans, generate a greater impact and facilitate the participation of the best players in the world. We look forward to seeing the event grow even further in the coming years,” Rojas commented.

The Davis Cup recorded it’s highest levels of participation in history last year with 137 teams competing in the competition.

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