EXCLUSIVE Interview With US Davis Cup Captain Mardy Fish: “If Davis Cup Fails, We All Fail”
Mardy Fish takes the reins of the US Davis Cup team and feels very strongly about the new format for the competition: “If you love Davis Cup you have to support it, even with this format”
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].
ITF Vice-President Calls Former World No.1 Doubles Star Mahut ‘Ignorant’ Over Davis Cup Comments
Bernard Giudicelli’s controversial remarks about the 41-year-old tennis player have sparked a backlash from some top names within the French tennis circuit.
A war of words has broken out between one of France’s most respected Davis Cup players and the former head of the country’s tennis federation following comments he made about the event.
Nicolas Mahut, who is a five-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, has spoken out against the current state of the Davis Cup after Kosmos and the International Tennis Federation recently ended their collaboration after just five years. Kosmos originally pledged to invest $3bn in the event over 25 years in what supporters said would help transform the competition. The deal was given the green light during an ITF AGM meeting in 2018 but critics said it threatened to kill the Davis Cup with the removal of home and away finals.
During a recent press conference, Mahut said he has been angered by the developments which have happened in recent years. Putting blame directly on ITF president David Haggerty, as well as vice-president Bernard Giudicelli who was also the head of the French Tennis Federation (FTT).
“We have lost four years of Davis Cup. We should never have allowed this experience. Perhaps they thought they were making a good decision, but they immediately saw that it was not working, that the idea of having a kind of World Cup could not work,” said Mahut.
“It’s a failure. It wasn’t even broadcast on the big channels in France. I’m very angry with [ITF president] Haggerty. He had the nasty idea to let us down, and now we can only wonder what will happen.’
“Also Bernard Giudicelli knows what I think of his decision as vice president of the ITF and president of the FFT. It is evident that he also bears a large part of the responsibility in this fiasco, and I see that he does not question himself. I don’t agree with his reasons that he acted responsibly for the good of tennis. No. His responsibility, as president of the French Federation, was to vote for the interests of the French Federation and its license holders.”
The remarks prompted a fiery response from Giudicelli who branded the 41-year-old tennis player as ‘ignorant.’ The Frenchman is currently the ITF’s Chair of the Development Advisors Group and sits on the Davis Cup Committee.
Speaking to Tennis Actu, Giudicelli said “it’s not a 41-year-old player who will explain to a 20- or 22-year-old player how things will have to work” and that “Mahut is good for retirement and maybe he becomes a journalist, it will give him the opportunity to make harsh criticisms, which he does quite well.”
The criticism towards Mahut hasn’t gone down well with some of France’s top tennis figures who have branded Giudicelli’s remarks as disrespectful. Mahut has played 23 Davis Cup matches since 2015, winning 16 of those.
“A great man of French tennis with a great career and an irreproachable state of mind on the one hand @nmahut, on the other a very small disrespectful, arrogant, smug, incompetent and embittered person. No, there will be no match between the two. #réformerladavis,” former French captain Arnaud Clement said.
Others to weigh in on social media include Edouard Roger Vasselin who said ‘we don’t disrespect Nicolas Mahut like that.’ French Billie Jean King Cup captain, Julien Benneteau, wrote ‘we cannot speak in these terms of a player who, beyond his record (greatest French doubles team of all time with Pierre Hugues-Herbert) always had an irreproachable state of mind.’ Finally, L’equipe tennis journalist, Quentin Moynet, commented on the matter by saying ‘it doesn’t matter if we agree with Mahut or Giudicelli, we can argue without disrespect. 20 years of career, best track record in the history of French doubles, there is a minimum of respect.’
Mahut is one of only two Frenchman to reach world No.1 in doubles or singles in the Open Era. He has won 41 ATP titles so far in his career with 37 of those being in doubles.
64-year-old Giudicelli is yet to respond to the criticism he has received following his comments about Mahut.
NOTE: All quotes in this article were originally in French and have been translated into English.
Davis Cup Round-Up: Who Has Qualified For The Finals Group Stage?
Over the weekend 12 ties took place around the world to decide which countries would qualify for the Davis Cup Finals Group Stage later this year.
Borna Coric, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Stan Wawrinka and Cameron Norrie were among those who participated in the historic team competition which began in 1900. There were plenty of highs and lows with some teams rewriting the history books for their countries.
Perhaps the biggest shock occurred at the Espoo Metro Arena where Finland stunned four-time champions Argentina 3-1. Home favorite Emil Ruusuvuori guided his team to victory by winning both of his singles matches in straight sets, as well as the doubles alongside Harri Heliovaara. It is the first time the Scandinavian country has qualified for the Finals stage.
History was also made in the South Korean capital of Seoul where the home nation came back from a 0-2 deficit to win a tie for the first time. Taking on Belgium, Korea fell behind after losing to David Goffin and Zizou Bergs on the opening day. However, they turned their fortunes around with a three-match winning streak to become the only Asian team to reach the final playoffs this year.
In one of the most anticipated clashes, Wawrinka guided Switzerland to a thrilling 3-2 win over Germany. The three-time Grand Slam champion endured a roller-coaster run after losing to Zverev in his opening match and then in the doubles alongside teammate Dominic Stricker. However, he clinched the decisive point for his team by defeating Daniel Altmaier 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Switzerland’s other two points were earned by Marc-Andrea Huesler who defeated Zverev and Oscar Otte.
There was also a close battle between France and Hungary. Tied at 2-2, Ugo Humbert sealed victory for his country by defeating Fabian Marozsan 6-3, 6-3. France has won the Davis Cup 10 times and was runner-up on nine other occasions.
Great Britain prevailed on the South American clay by defeating Colombia 3-1. After Dan Evans lost his opening match against Nicolas Mejia, the Brits bounced back with the help of two wins by Norrie and a crucial victory in the doubles. In the doubles match Evans and Neal Skupski stunned former world No.1 players Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
Also through to the finals are America, Serbia and the Netherlands who all won their ties 4-0. Meanwhile, Sweden, Croatia and the Czech Republic all won 3-1.
The 12 winning countries will join Canada, Australia, Italy and Spain in the playoffs for the finals in September. The Group Stage will be held at four different venues from 12 to 17 September. The eight best teams will then progress to the finals in Malaga which will be held from 21 to 26 November.
CROATIA defeated AUSTRIA 3-1
Borna Coric (CRO) d. Dennis Novak (AUT) 6-3 7-5
Borna Gojo (CRO) d. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3 7-6(2)
Alexander Erler/Lucas Miedler (AUT) d. Ivan Dodig/Nikola Mektic (CRO) 6-3 7-6(11)
Borna Coric (CRO) d. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 7-6(3) 6-2
FRANCE defeated HUNGARY 3-2
Zsombor Piros (HUN) d. Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 7-6(4) 6-3
Ugo Humbert (FRA) d. Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-3 6-2
Fabian Marozsan/Mate Valkusz (HUN) d. Nicolas Mahut/Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) 6-2 7-6(4)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) d. Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 7-6(6) 6-2
Ugo Humbert (FRA) d. Fabian Marozsan (HUN) 6-3 6-3
USA defeated UZBEKISTAN 4-0
Mackenzie Mcdonald (USA) d. Sergey Fomin (UZB) 64 61
Tommy Paul (USA) d. Khumoyun Sultanov (UZB) 61 76(6)
Austin Krajicek/Rajeev Ram (USA) d. Sanjar Fayziev/Sergey Fomin (UZB) 6-2 6-4
Denis Kudla (USA) d. Amir Milushev (UZB) 6-4 6-4
SWITZERLAND defeated GERMANY 3-2
Marc-Andrea Huesler (SUI) d. Oscar Otte (GER) 2-6 6-2 6-4
Alexander Zverev (GER) d. Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-4 6-1
Andreas Mies/Tim Puetz (GER) d. Dominic Stricker/Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-7(3) 6-3 6-4
Marc-Andrea Huesler (SUI) d. Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-2 7-6(4)
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) d. Daniel Altmaier (GER) 6-3 5-7 6-4
GREAT BRITAIN defeated COLOMBIA 3-1
Nicolas Mejia (COL) d. Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-2 2-6 6-4
Cameron Norrie (GBR) d. Nicolas Barrientos (COL) 6-2 7-5
Daniel Evans/Neal Skupski (GBR) d. Juan-Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah (COL) 6-4 6-4
Cameron Norrie (GBR) d. Nicolas Mejia (COL) 6-4 6-4
SERBIA defeated NORWAY 4-0
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) d. Andreja Petrovic (NOR) 6-1 6-3
Laslo Djere (SRB) d. Viktor Durasovic (NOR) 6-3 4-6 7-6(8)
Nikola Cacic/Filip Krajinovic (SRB) d. Viktor Durasovic/Herman Hoeyeraal (NOR) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Hamad Medjedovic (SRB) d. Viktor Durasovic (NOR) 6-4 6-7(4) [10-4
CHILE defeated KAZAKHSTAN 3-1
Timofei Skatov (KAZ) d. Cristian Garin (CHI) 6-1 6-3
Nicolas Jarry (CHI) d. Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-2 6-2
Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera/Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) d. Andrey Golubev/Aleksandr Nedovyesov (KAZ) 6-4 7-5
Cristian Garin (CHI) d. Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-4 3-6 6-3
KOREA, REP. defeated BELGIUM 3-2
Zizou Bergs (BEL) d. Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 1-6 6-4 7-6(6)
David Goffin (BEL) d. Hong Seong Chan (KOR) 6-4 6-2
Nam Jisung/Song Min-kyu (KOR) d. Sander Gille/Joran Vliegen (BEL) 7-6(3) 7-6(5)
Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) d. David Goffin (BEL) 3-6 6-1 6-3
Hong Seong Chan (KOR) d. Zizou Bergs (BEL) 6-3 7-6(4)
SWEDEN defeated BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 3-1
Mikael Ymer (SWE) d. Mirza Basic (BIH) 6-4 7-5
Elias Ymer (SWE) d. Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-1 6-4
Mirza Basic/Tomislav Brkic (BIH) d. Andre Goransson/Elias Ymer (SWE) 6-4 6-2
Mikael Ymer (SWE) d. Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-1 1-6 6-3
NETHERLANDS defeated SLOVAKIA 4-0
Tallon Griekspoor (NED) d. Lukas Klein (SVK) 7-6(6) 2-6 6-4
Tim Van Rijthoven (NED) d. Alex Molcan (SVK) 7-6(6) 5-7 6-3
Wesley Koolhof/Matwe Middelkoop (NED) d. Lukas Klein/Alex Molcan (SVK) 6-3 6-3
Matwe Middelkoop (NED) d. Jozef Kovalik (SVK) 6-4 6-4
FINLAND defeated ARGENTINA 3-1
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) d. Pedro Cachin (ARG) 7-5 6-3
Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) d. Otto Virtanen (FIN) 6-3 3-6 7-6(3)
Harri Heliovaara/Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) d. Maximo Gonzalez/Andres Molteni (ARG) 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) d. Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 7-5 6-1
CZECH REPUBLIC defeated PORTUGAL 3-1
Jiri Lehecka (CZE) d. Nuno Borges (POR) 6-4 6-4
Tomas Machac (CZE) d. Joao Sousa (POR) 7-6(6) 3-6 6-2
Nuno Borges/Francisco Cabral (POR) d. Tomas Machac/Adam Pavlasek (CZE) 7-5 7-6(4)
Joao Sousa (POR) v Jiri Lehecka (CZE) 6-4 6-1
Davis Cup In Danger After Kosmos Ends Partnership
The 25-year $3bn deal in place to protect the team event is coming to an end. It remains to be seen what happens next.
The future of the Davis Cup has been thrown into jeopardy following the departure of investment company Kosmos after they reportedly failed to reach a financial agreement with the International Tennis Federation.
Rumours of the partnership breaking up started to surface on social media on Thursday but Ubitennis has since been able to confirm that this is true through a national tennis federation source. According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, Kosmos’ exit from the Davis Cup occurred after they failed to reach an agreement with the ITF concerning the $40M fee per year.
The development is a massive blow for the ITF who originally signed a 25-year deal with Kosmos worth in the region of $3bn back in 2018 after their AGM voted in favour of making changes to the event. Something that prompted a substantial divide in the sport with critics accusing them of trying to destroy the historic team competition which has been in existence since 1900. Under the agreement, Kosmos took sole responsibility for the Davis Cup and its format.
During recent interviews with Ubitennis over the past three months, the CEO of Kosmos, Enrique Rojas, claimed the organization had desires to make the Davis Cup as prominent as a Grand Slam and said in a separate interview that he wanted to use ‘global ambassadors’ to promote the event.
The timeframe of the negotiations has not been made public and therefore it is unclear when Kosmos officially ended their collaboration.
One of the first officials to react to the development was Dirk Hordotff from the German Tennis Federation who agreed with Ubitennis for his remarks to be published. Hordorff is the current coach of Ricardas Berankis and has previously worked with former world No.5 Rainer Schuettler for 20 years.
“Time to review and heal this nonsense,” he said.
‘Bring back home and away ties which makes the Davis Cup so unique.’
“Solve the key issues of the problem: no short notice for organizations of the ties and have a minimum preparation for each event of one year. Don’t play the final every year and don’t play (the event) in Olympic years. The best thing during an Olympic year would be to have a team event at the Olympics.”
There is yet to be an official statement from either the ITF or Kosmos. However, an ITF spokesperson has confirmed to the AFP news Agency that the partnership is ‘ending in its fifth year.’ It is understood that this year’s Davis Cup will continue under the sole control of the ITF but it remains to be seen what happens to the future of the event.
As for Kosmos, they will still stay involved in tennis in some capacity. Earlier this month they announced the signings of Elina Svitolina, Borna Coric and Andrey Rublev to their management branch.
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