With the ATP Cup officially poised to challenge Davis Cup as the leading team event in tennis, Gerard Piqué’s team at Kosmos, the investment fund now managing the 120-year-old competition, has decided to ramp up its efforts to promote their competition and ensure the success of their 25-year, 3-billion-dollar investment. During the first days of the Australian Open the ITF has invited a small group of journalists to a Melbourne hotel for an informal discussion about the new Davis Cup format with some of the top executives from Kosmos.
While ITF President David Haggerty was in Lausanne discussing with IOC President Thomas Bach how Olympic eligibility criteria would need to be modified in light of the new format for Davis Cup (we were told that seven formal letters have been sent from the ITF to the IOC in relation to this matter) for the 2020-2024 period (it has already been established that current criteria will remain in place to determine eligibility for Tokyo 2020), it was up to Kosmos Tennis CEO Javier Alonso, Chief Competition Officer Galo Blanco (former ATP player and coach) and ITF Senior Executive Director for Professional Tennis Kris Dent to entertain a dozen journalist for a working breakfast at the Hotel Pullman on the Park in Melbourne, just steps away from Rod Laver Arena.
Despite the façade of extreme confidence in their business model, both from a financial and from a tennis standpoint, it was impossible for them to deny the existence of several issues to be sorted out, starting from the position of the Davis Cup Finals in the calendar. “We believe there is a global scheduling issue in tennis – said Kris Dent – and we are more than willing to move our competition to the date that makes more sense for tennis in general, regardless of the specific interests of the individual stakeholders”. And while this statement sounds extremely accommodating at first, it has to be noted that at the moment the Davis Cup Finals have possibly the worst week in the calendar, and any change would likely be a change for the better for this competition. “During the ATP Finals week in London we made a proposal to the ATP, the WTA and the Grand Slam tournaments, and we are waiting for their answer. We have included in the conversation also the Laver Cup through their shareholders Tennis Australia and USTA”. In fact, the Laver Cup probably holds the best card in this entire poker game, since it is positioned in the week that would be ideal for the Davis Cup Finals: starting seven days after the end of the US Open and ending seven days before the Asian swing, the Laver Cup is now in a position to hold to ransom the entire tennis world while just being a non-sanctioned two-year-old competition.
Another problem faced by Kosmos is players’ willingness to make themselves available for a competition that, as it stands, it cuts into their already limited off-season, without having to use Olympic eligibility as a coercive tool, since it is now being challenged by the players directly at an IOC level. For this purpose, Kosmos hired Galo Blanco, former ATP pro and more recently coach to top players like Raonic, Khachanov and Thiem, whose main task is to answer all questions about the competition any player, coach or captain may have. “Some of them were reluctant to play in Madrid in November because they thought the surface would be clay. But it won’t be on clay: the surface will be the same as the one that is used at the O2 Arena for the ATP Finals. I’m here to reassure them about all the details of the competition”.
Kosmos expects droves of fans to travel to Madrid for a week and make a great atmosphere for the event. “Our dream – Blanco continues – is to have a packed stadium for the final, with half of the fans dressed in the colors of one team and the other half dressed in the colors of the other finalist”. It is true that the old Davis Cup format did not allow to know the teams competing in the final and the venue for the event until late September-beginning of October, and this was a potential obstacle to fans arranging the trip. Now teams and venue will be known as of mid-February. However, a Davis Cup Final has always been a 3-day affair, while with the new format fans will be expected to be at the venue for the entire week, and although Kosmos does not see this as a problem, fans (and their bank accounts) may think differently.
The new Davis Cup Finals format is certainly an improvement for players, even if some of them have been very candidly saying they will not play: “I remember that when I was a player it was very difficult to commit to playing Davis Cup because it could mean up to 7-8 weeks of your schedule occupied by the competition – says Blanco – It’s definitely too much. Now that commitment has been reduced by half and we believe it is now much more manageable”.
What Kosmos and ITF want to stress is the flow of fresh money this new Davis Cup format will bring into tennis: now players will play for a very large prize money at the Finals ($20 million a year) and tennis federations will receive substantial funding they will be able to invest in player development. “We have also plans including Fed Cup – adds Dent – that as of 2019 will see its prize money doubled with an increase of approximately 4 million dollars”.
The “war of team cups” is just getting started, the first round of the new Davis Cup by Kosmos is just a few weeks away but the crucial battle will be fought between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, when in a six-week time span there will be two substantially identical competitions each promoted by a different organism. We could say “let the best win”: we just hope there will still be a sport to follow when the dust settles on the battlefield.
(Exclusive) Albert Costa: “Davis Cup Finals Are Going To Remain The Best Of Three Sets”
Last week at the Barcelona Open during one of the many suspensions due to the rainy weather UbiTennis had a chat with 2002 French Open champion Albert Costa in the elegant clubhouse of the Real Club de Tennis de Barcelona.
By Federico Bertelli, translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Born in Lleida, Albert Costa grew up as a tennis player at the Real Club de Tennis de Barcelona and also won the tournament in 1997. When he retired from tennis he became the director of the tournament until three years ago when he handed it over to David Ferrer. One of the best stands on the centre court takes his name. Until the 1980s the tennis stadium was the Spanish team’s Davis Cup home.
Now, after stepping down from his role at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Albert Costa has become tournament director of the Davis Cup which is now advertised as “The World Cup of Tennis.”
UBITENNIS: Players have asked to be able conclude their season before playing the Davis Cup. As a result, the group ties which will determine the eight quarter finalists have been moved to September and the final knockout stage will unfold over five days. What can you tell us about this? Is it going to be a definitive format?
Albert Costa: It hasn’t been confirmed yet but likely it will be six days starting on Tuesday until Sunday. It is not yet agreed with ITF but, as organisers of the event, our intention is to play from Tuesday to Sunday at the end of November. As far as the future is concerned, we are trying to find the best solution. We are aware that the first years will require some fine tuning but I believe that in the next one or two years we’re going to reach a consolidated format, which will enable us to work comfortably and to give certainty to our stakeholders.
UBITENNIS: In 2022 and 2023 the Davis Cup will be played in Malaga. Can you tell us anything more about the selection process, considering that last year they were speaking about Abu Dhabi and then at the beginning of 2022 a neutral location was being considered?
Albert Costa: Actually we were in negotiations with Abu Dhabi, there was a concrete proposal. Then Malaga came up with a very attractive proposal and at that point we considered other factors which led us to choose the latter: tennis tradition and culture are at a different level in Spain and this was an aspect that drove Kosmos to choose Malaga. Other considerations are involved as well: an easier destination to reach for tennis fans. Europe is the centre of tennis in terms of countries and players, the ATP finals are played indoors in Turin. This last aspect is particularly relevant: in fact it is very simple to move to Malaga just a few days later and the environment is similar. Besides, Malaga is a city which is growing very fast and sees Davis Cup as an opportunity to gain visibility and to pair with its tourism.
UBITENNIS: The first edition of Davis Cup with the new format was played at the Caja Magica in Madrid, where the Mutua Madrid Open usually takes place. One of the advantages of the facilities is the possibility to use the three indoor courts simultaneously. Has the idea of playing simultaneous matches been put aside? Playing more than one match at the same time could allow them to go back to the 5-set format like in the old Davis Cup.
Albert Costa: I know very well the format of the former Davis Cup, but we have ruled out going back to five set matches. We haven’t taken into consideration the option of playing simultaneously.
UBITENNIS: But with the current three match format, the double counts very much, much more than before; amazing runs like those of Djokovic or Murray, who a few years ago carried their teams on their shoulders and led them to victory, now would no longer be possible.
Albert Costa: It’s true. With the new format, having a great number one isn’t enough. You need a balanced team with a good doubles. But in this way the format makes competition tighter and more open and potentially there is a great number of teams that can win the trophy. This makes it all more exciting. For instance Serbia, in spite of having Djokovic, who has dominated tennis over the last years, hasn’t yet succeeded in winning the Davis Cup with the new format.
UBITENNIS: Summing up, the 3-match format, two singles and one doubles, isn’t going to change.
Albert Costa: Yes, I confirm this is the direction we are taking: 3 matches in one day.
UBITENNIS: Speaking about the calendar, which are your expectations in terms of public, now that tennis fans have got two months to make arrangements for going to watch their team? Last year it was very complicated since the teams qualified for the quarter finals were known only one week before they actually played.
Albert Costa: Now it’s much easier. We are going to work with travel agencies in order to set up interesting packages. We are also going to work with the national federations in this direction. We are aware that environment and support are the distinguishing traits that make Davis Cup so special. Our target for 2022 is to have at least 1000 supporters for each team cheering their players from the stands. The environment is definitely one of the key factors to success. This means that we want at least 8000 supporters coming from the different countries for the final eight. If Spain were to reach this stage, the number would be even higher. Then we have to add the neutral public that simply comes in to enjoy tennis. Our idea is to create an experience which combines Davis Cup with the possibility to have a trip to the Mediterranean and enjoy the city.
UBITENNIS: The old format was no longer viable. For many players winning Davis Cup once in their career was enough, whereas Majors are never enough. How do you think you can succeed in attracting the best players to always play Davis Cup?
Albert Costa: when I used to play from 1995 to 2005, I remember that the players were already asking to change the format. It was impossible to dedicate four weeks to the Davis Cup, which often involved moving to different surfaces from the Tour schedule. With the new format the workload is different. The players of a team that reaches the final stage have to invest three weeks. In terms of surfaces and event preparation it’s all much simpler: the final stage of Davis Cup is played indoors, just like the rest of the indoor season. As the matches are played best of three sets the players are much less impacted in terms of physical engagement, which is an excellent thing considering the increasing amount of injuries we’ve seen recently. It’s true that in the past many players were content with contributing to winning one Davis Cup only. We aim at providing a comfortable scheduling so that players will be eager to participate every year.
UBITENNIS: Wouldn’t the event be made more legendary if at least in the final the matches were played best of five sets?
Albert Costa: I understand the historical point of view, but also the finals of the ATP Masters 1000 and of the ATP Finals were played best of five sets and now things have changed. Especially with the stress, both physical and mental, which modern tennis brings in. Players are already pushing their limits. It’s already three matches, which means at least six hours of competition. It’s enough both for the public and for the players. I believe that the value of a Davis Cup victory cannot be measured on the basis of the physical toll paid by players. It’s the overall value of the team that ought to be rewarded, which is also the reason why it is fair that the most well-balanced teams, with a strong number 1, a good number 2 and a good doubles, are the most likely to win.
UBITENNIS: Under a communication profile the claim that has been delivered since 2019 is that it’s a World Cup of Tennis. This theme has already been broadly discussed, but I’d still like to hear your opinion as a former player.
Albert Costa: Before the format we used to play with, home and away ties, Davis Cup was like America’s Cup, where the winner of the previous edition waited for the challenger selection series. Changes are in the order of things. I believe that going towards a World Cup type of format, with a group stage and a knockout stage is an excellent solution.
UBITENNIS: A last question: until 2023 everything is scheduled, in terms of format and location. For 2024 could there be an agreement with ATP Cup?
Albert Costa: We are working at it. Having Davis Cup at the end of November and ATP Cup at the beginning of January doesn’t make much sense. Kosmos and the other parties involved have to get into talks. We’re trying. Let’s see what comes out of it.
REPORT: Valencia To Host Group Stage Of Davis Cup Finals As Part Of Five-Year Deal
It is understood that negotiations are at an advanced stage and an announcement could be made very soon.
The Spanish city of Valencia has been chosen as the fourth and final host of the group stages of the Davis Cup Finals, according to two separate media sources.
Regional newspaper Las Provincias has reported that negotiations have been ongoing between officials in the region and Kosmos, the investment company who oversees the running of the tournament. It has been reported that talks between the two are at an ‘advance’ stage with it only being a matter of time before a deal is finalized.
An announcement is expected to be made as early as this week that Valencia has signed a five-year deal to host the Davis Cup. However, the venue of where the event will be hosted is still to be confirmed. One of the options is the bullring known as the Plaza de Toros de Valencia which has staged numerous Davis Cup ties in the past. However, another venue may seem more suitable considering the time of year and the fact four teams are taking part.
Valencia’s rumoured appointment fills in the gap left by Malaga who have been named host of the knockout finals in November after initially being awarded the chance to hold one of the four group stages along with Glasglow, Bologna and Hamburg. Malaga will also host the finale in 2023 as well. Making it the fourth time in a row the finale of the event has been held in Spain.
News outlet Levante–EMV has also confirmed Valencia’s intention to host the team event and say officials have already expressed a desire to one day host the knock-out stages in November. Although there is no guarantee that will happen.
The development comes shortly after France pulled out of the bidding process due to what they described as ‘onerous’ financial and operational conditions which none of their potential organizers was willing to accept. France was initially excluded from the hosting process and filed a case to the Court of Arbitration in March for Sport (CAS) saying the decision was unfair. However, a month later they were allowed to take part. It is unclear as to why they were initially excluded.
Davis Cup officials are yet to publicly comment on Valencia’s appointment but it is expected that they will do so very soon. In their latest communication, organizers said they plan to announce the fourth host of the group stages, which is said to be Valencia, before the draw takes place on April 26th.
The group stages of the 2022 Davis Cup Finals will take place from 14-18 September. Each group will consist of four teams with ties being a best-of-three rubbers taking place on the same day. The top two teams from each group will then progress to the knockout stages which will take place between November 23-27.
Davis Cup: France Excluded From Hosting Tie, Overturns Decision And Then Pulls Out Over ‘Onerous Conditions’
During the first quarter of 2022 a dispute prompted France to take legal action but details of what happened are still unclear.
Tennis can sometimes be a confusing business and France’s current relationship with the International Tennis Federation relating to the Davis Cup is a prime example of this.
On Monday the French Tennis Federation (FFT) issued a statement publicly confirming that they had been in a legal dispute with the ITF over their right to hold a Davis Cup tie this year. The fallout was prompted by a decision that France, who has won the Davis Cup 10 times, was excluded from the bidding process to host one of the four group stages. It is still unclear as to why the country was deemed ineligible with no public comment being made. Especially with France being one of the 12 teams to qualify for this year’s finals.
Subsequently the FFT took on the ITF and Kosmos, who oversees the running of the team competition. On March 16th they filed an appeal of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) arguing that their exclusion was unfair. However, less than a month later (April 8th) France was once again included in the bidding process following the withdrawal of a host city from the group stages. Five days later the ITF confirmed that Malaga would be hosting the knockout stages of the Davis Cup Finals in November instead of the group stages in September. Leaving a venue vacant.
“The new procedure put in place by the ITF and Kosmos has taken into account the criticisms made by the FFT in the course of its submissions before CAS, by providing clear and transparent deadlines for applications and the stages of the procedure,” the FFT said in a statement.
“Although the FFT is pleased to note that the ITF and Kosmos have taken its objections into account in this new bidding process and to have the merits of its arguments confirmed as regards the defects in the original bidding process, it regrets having been forced to file a legal appeal before CAS to assert its rights.“
Ironically, France won their argument to be involved in the selection process without the CAS having their final say. However, there would be another twist to the somewhat confusing plot which still has gaps in the story.
Today the FFT confirmed that they no longer want to take part in the process due to what they perceive as obligations so severe that no potential organizer in the country was willing to accept. They didn’t elaborate on what those conditions are. Although it is assumed that they have been accepted by Great Britain, Italy and Germany. The countries who will host three out of the four group stages.
“After finally being able to review the complete specifications in the designation of the host cities of the Davis Cup Group Stages, the FFT has decided not to submit a bid in view of the onerous financial and operational conditions which no potential organizer in the French territory was willing to accept,” they said.
“From a legal point of view, having been recognized in its right to participate in the bidding process for the designation of the Davis Cup host cities, the FFT has decided to withdraw its action before the CAS today since it no longer has any purpose.”
The extraordinary fiasco also raises questions about the FFT’s statement and their decision to go as far as saying that hosting conditions are ‘onerous’ in their view. It is just a case of them expressing their views or is it a warning to others?
The timing of the FFT’s statement coincided with claims that Kosmos, who is the principle financial investor in the Davis Cup, made millions in relation to their involvement in the relocation of the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. According to El Confidencial, the company negotiated a payment of 4M euros for each of the six tournaments to be played in the country from 2020. Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique is the founder of Kosmos. He has not been accused of committing any misconduct, but is alleged to have received preferential treatment during the deal.
“Pique had a key role in the negotiations for the Spanish Super Cup to be hosted in Saudi Arabia, and throughout this process enjoyed preferential treatment from (federation president) Luis Rubiales, for reasons yet to be determined. A spokesperson for Pique has denied that he received any special treatment,” El Confidencial wrote on Monday.
According to the latest information, it is expected that a fourth host for the Davis Cup Group stage will be announced before the draw for the Finals on 26 April.
There has been no public response by either the ITF or Kosmos regarding the FFT’s statement.
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