After Jim Courier’s resignation from the role of US Davis Cup Captain last September after the defeat in the 2018 semifinal against Croatia, the USTA decided to take their time and make some changes to the duties required by the role. Following Courier’s suggestion that “the new captain should be someone closer in age to the players”, the United States Tennis Association decided to trust former world no.7 Mardy Fish with this important responsibility, also making him a key figure in the Player Development Program, expanding the role of captain into a year-round presence at tournaments around the world to provide a bigger support to players.
While we were covering the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Mardy found the time to talk to Ubitennis over the phone from his house in California and provided some insight into this new adventure for him.
What can you tell us about your first few months in your new role?
It’s been a fun few months, adjusting from the role of peer to the other players to that of captain. I have found a lot of respect towards me from the other players and this is obviously a great thing. I have always been a huge fan of Davis Cup, I have always said yes whenever I had the opportunity to play it, and it’s an honor to be in this role.
You retired a few years ago from professional tennis: how do you feel about getting back on the road now that your life is structured in a different way?
My life at home has been quite established, with my wife and my two kids, but I have been doing a bit of personal traveling for some exhibitions and for golfing. This role will not require a lot of traveling, I will just do what I need to create some camaraderie in the team: I have spent a few days in Indian Wells, from Tuesday to Saturday, I will be a few days in Miami, then I won’t be around much for the European season and I will travel again to tournaments in the summer. I just need the players to know that they have my support and the support of the USTA if it’s needed.
What do you think about the new formula for the Davis Cup?
I think it’s too early to tell right now, we will find out how it goes. On paper the formula sounds awesome, the time was right for a change, although I’m not sure if it was necessary to make it as drastic as this. I know there are some people that feel very strongly against this new formula, but this means that people are passionate about Davis Cup, they really care about it.
The date in the calendar for the Finals is quite tough though. But at the end of the day, if it’s Davis Cup the majority of players will find a way to participate and I’m convinced we will get an excellent field.
As far as the US Team is concerned, I don’t foresee any availability issue from our players, especially the younger ones: they are very excited about playing for the USA, the National Team is in a lot of conversations among our players. I can’s speak for other countries, I know some of them have pledged not to play with the new format, but what we need to remember is that we are all responsible for Davis Cup: if Davis Cup fails, we all fail, we are all together on the same boat. For example, the Australian players are all very passionate about Davis Cup, they love it, and that is fantastic. But if they don’t support it, it’s not going to work.
With the new formula, a team getting to the final will need to play six ties in seven days: how important do you think it will be to have a ‘long bench’?
I think it will be important to bring players who play only singles and other players who play only doubles. I believe that teams that only have one or two players, as it could be for Russia, and relying on them to play both singles and doubles could get into a bit of a situation should they get to the business end of the competition, because their players may get there quite tired. We are lucky in that sense because we can have someone like Jack Sock who could play doubles leaving the singles guys free to worry about the singles.
Tennis politics have recently made the headlines with Chris Kermode not being renewed as the ATP CEO. What is your take on this?
I have spoken to some of the guys who are in the Players’ Council and once again I need to stress that they do what they do because they act with passion. They are passionate about tennis, they act out of love for the game even if their ranking is not high. I know Kermode personally from when he was the Tournament Directors at the Queen’s Tournament and everything was perfect for me; I don’t have direct experience with him at the helm of the ATP, I had already retired when he took the reins of the organization.
A few weeks ago the ITF decided the composition of the Round Robin phase of the Davis Cup Final and the US team will be in the same group as Italy and Canada. Can you tell us about these teams?
Well, Canada has the right mix of experience and youth: Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime are going to be there for a long time, and Milos [Raonic] will be able to give them all the support they need. Similarly, Italy has an established core of players such as Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi that will be supplemented by Marco Cecchinato, whom I know him anyway because he is was my opponent in my last match ever at the US Open.
I am very confident about our chances in this group: we have three top 60 players who are still 21 years old or younger, who are Tiafoe, Fritz and Opelka. Tiafoe has just reached the Quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and that’s not a result that you can improvise, you need to beat good players to get there. They will be the core of our team for the years to come, and they will be helped by more established veterans like John [Isner] or Sam [Querrey].
Novak Djokovic Refuses To Blame Fatigue For Davis Cup Defeat
Novak Djokovic says his defeat in the Davis Cup on Saturday was a ‘huge disappointment’ but he isn’t taking any credit away from the performance of his opponents.
The 24-time major winner was on the verge of taking Serbia into the final of the competition. Taking to the court after Miomir Kecmanović beat Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic knew that beating Jannik Sinner would secure his team an unassabile lead. Against the world No.4, he had a 5-4 lead in the deciding set with three consecutive match points at his disposal. However, Djokovic was unable to convert any of them and ended up losing 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
Then in the deciding doubles match, Djokovic and Kecmanovic lost 6-3, 6-4, to Sinner and Musetti. Resulting in Italy progressing to their first title tie in the competition since 1998.
“Congratulations to Italy for qualifying for the finals,” Djokovic said afterward. “They deserved it. They played really well, particularly Jannik, in singles against me and then doubles, as well. He barely missed a ball the entire match.
“For me personally it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously having three match points, being so close to winning it. It’s unfortunate really. This is sport. When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even greater.”
It is only the fourth time in Djokovic’s career that he has suffered a loss after having match point opportunities. It is also the first time in his career he has been beaten by the same player (Sinner) multiple times in the Davis Cup.
The defeat is a bitter end to what has been a highly successful season for Djokovic who has won three out of the four Grand Slam events held in 2023. Last week he beat Sinner to win his 98th Tour title at the ATP Finals in Turin. To put that tally into context, only Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors have won more ATP trophies than him.
When asked if end-of-season fatigue played a role in his latest performance, Djokovic refused to find excuses. Coming into this weekend, he had won 21 consecutive matches in the Davis Cup.
“I don’t want to talk about it because it’s going to sound like an excuse,” he said.
“Obviously this is a tough one to swallow. I was really trying to hype myself and encourage myself for this week.
“Throughout the entire season, my thoughts were this week with my Davis Cup team. I tried to contribute. I did in the first tie, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
As Djokovic begins his off-season, Italy will face Australia for the Davis Cup title on Sunday. It will be the first meeting between the two countries in the event since 1993. If Italy wins, it will be only the second time they have claimed the trophy after 1976.
Novak Djokovic At Odds With British Captain Smith Over Behaviour Of Davis Cup Crowd
Novak Djokovic’s comment that it is normal for fans to ‘step over the line’ during Davis Cup ties has been disputed by British team captain Leon Smith who argues that the highly animated atmosphere is a positive.
The world No.1 clashed with a group of British fans during his country’s quarter-finals win. Just moments after beating Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4, to seal an unassailable 2-0 lead for Serbia, Djokovic was frustrated with fans during his on-court interview. Whilst speaking, he had to contend with a group of fans deliberately beating their drums.
“Learn how to respect players, learn how to behave yourself,” the 24-time Grand Slam winner responded to those drumming before adding, “No, you shut up, you be quiet”.
During the match, Djokovic also expressed his displeasure with some of the crowd by cupping his ear and blowing kisses after winning the first set. The tie featured an estimated 5000 British fans in attendance at the event which is being staged in Malaga, Spain.
Speaking during his press conference, Djokovic said he felt that there was ‘disrespect’ from some of those in the stands throughout his match but acknowledged that this was not unusual in the competition. Although he believes the way he reacted was justified.
“In the Davis Cup, it’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line but in the heat of the moment, you react too. You in a way show that you don’t allow this kind of behavior.” He said.
“They (the crowd) can do whatever they want but I’m going to respond to that. That’s what happened.’
“I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk and they were trying to annoy me the entire match.”
Reacting to the incident, British captain Smith has dismissed a suggestion that there should be a review into the policy on having drums during matches when asked if he thinks more should be done to show respect to players whilst they are playing. The former coach of Andy Murray has been in charge of his country’s team for more than a decade and oversaw their run to the title in 2015.
“The best ones are the noisy ones. When it’s flat and dead and no one’s clapping, no music, it’s pretty boring.” Said Smith.
“That’s one of the things that’s good about Davis Cup and the team competition that actually you’re kind of meant to make noise. And there is always, whether there is a bit that goes over, comments, I could hear a couple. I don’t think it’s that bad.”
“I would hate to see it quietening down because there’s enough quiet tennis as it is. If anything, that atmosphere is good for us.”
In the competition itself, Serbia is set to play Italy in the semi-finals where Djokovic could continue his rivalry with Jannik Sinner. The two clashed twice at last week’s ATP Finals with Sinner winning their group match before Djokovic triumphed in straight sets in the final.
“We’re kind of developing a nice rivalry lately. I have tons of respect for him.” Djokovic said of the world No.4.
“He’s been playing arguably the tennis of his life. I saw a little bit of singles and doubles that he won. He really played on a high level. I could see that he was very pumped to play for his nation.’
“I know that he’s confident and playing some of the best tennis that we saw him ever play. But I’m not playing bad myself. So it’s going to be a great match.”
Serbia’s semi-final clash with Italy will take place on Saturday.
‘Not The best’ – Novak Djokovic Gives His Verdict On Davis Cup Format
Novak Djokovic has urged the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to consult more with players regarding the future of the Davis Cup after saying he believes improvements can be made to the event.
The 24-time Grand Slam champion made his remarks about the competition ahead of Serbia’s quarter-final clash with Great Britain on Thursday. This week the eight teams are participating in a knockout competition in Malaga for this year’s title. Those who qualified had to come through the group stages which were held in four cities across Europe with the top two of each group progressing.
Djokovic’s team hasn’t played a tie in their home country since September 2018 which was against India which took place without the tennis star. Something the world No.1 believes is a flaw in the system that he believes needs to be improved for the future.
“I feel that the best format will be somewhere in between the old one and the new one but I don’t think that this is best for the nations participating in the World Group,” said Djokovic.
“The fact that we, as a team, have not played in Serbia for many years is not great because we don’t give an opportunity to people in Serbia to watch us play, especially young people and young tennis players.’
“It also allows (our) Federation to benefit in different ways from that home tie. So hopefully that can be back in some way.”
Although Serbia’s wait for hosting a Davis Cup tie could end soon. The ITF has written to the Serbian Tennis Federation twice to see if they are interested in staging one of the group-stage events next September, but they have yet to respond. They also previously contacted Djokovic via the Serbian Tennis Federation after the group-stage event in Valencia with a view to arranging a meeting in Malaga.
The Davis Cup has gone through numerous changes in recent years which was triggered by a deal with investment company Kosmos to revamp the competition. However, Kosmos’ pledge to invest in the event for 25 years didn’t even last five years after the ITF terminated its contract at the start of 2023.
As for the future, Djokovic says that there should be no ‘behind the doors’ discussions on what to do with the team event without the ITF speaking with the players and their federations. However, the modern format was voted in by a 72% majority of the ITF’s member nations at the ITF AGM in 2018. The ITF is one of seven governing bodies operating in tennis. The others are the ATP, WTA and each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
“I don’t have in my mind personally a perfect format. I think it’s important to put it out on the table and discuss it, but not discuss it behind closed doors. Discuss with players and discuss with Davis Cup teams,” he continued.
“I think everyone should have their say because so far no one has been really communicating with us from ITF. So that’s something I feel like should change because obviously we also are a very integral part of this competition. I feel like we can give some valuable information and feedback on what we think is the right way.’
“We will have probably a difference of opinions but I think the home-and-away ties is something the Davis Cup historically has been very famous for.”
Another issue brought up surrounds the location of the finals. Since the competition was revamped in 2019, all of the final ties have been held in Spain despite the ITF’s vow to move the competition around the world.
“Giving one nation to host every year the Last 8 for now three, four years in a row, actually five, Madrid, Malaga, is too much, in my opinion.” Djokovic states.
“It has to travel. This is a competition that is played globally. I feel like the Davis Cup Finals, at least if you’re going to keep it at Final 4, Final 8, should travel every year. It shouldn’t stay in one place more than a year.”
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