EXCLUSIVE Interview With US Davis Cup Captain Mardy Fish: "If Davis Cup Fails, We All Fail" - UBITENNIS
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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”

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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].

 

Davis Cup

Former Grand Slam Champion Hits Out At ‘Abysmal’ Davis Cup

Australia’s most successful doubles player in Davis Cup history isn’t happy about the changes made to team event.

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Former world No.1 Doubles player Todd Woodbridge has taken a fresh swipe at the revamped Davis Cup and their allocation of wild cards for the 2020 finals.

 

The 48-year-old has blasted the format of the historic team event following major changes that was made this year. Last month was the first time the finals took place over a week with 18 teams participating in one location in Madrid. At the event there was a few blips with the scheduling being at times problematic. Highlighted by the tie between the USA and Italy that went on until 4am.

Despite the issues, there were also positives to be taken away from the event, which was won by Spain. However, Woodbridge remains a critic. The Australian is his country’s most successful doubles player in the history of the Davis Cup with 25 wins under his belt. Overall, he played in 32 ties over a 14-year period (1991-2005).

“The tennis itself has been brilliant, the organisation has been abysmal,” Woodbridge said on Australian programme Sports Sunday.
“Everything from IT issues, to playing matches that finish at 4am, and then today the ITF go, ‘Well we’re going to put in more wild cards.”

It is the wild cards decision that has irritated the 16-time grand slam champion the most. Recently it was announced that Serbia and France has been handed passes into the finals next November. Meaning that will not have to go through the play-off ties. Woodbridge has suggested the move was deliberately made in order to persuade Novak Djokovic to play in the event again.

“They’ve given wild cards this week, for 12 months’ time. You’ve got to ask the question, how can you do that? It looks like they’re guaranteeing Novak Djokovic a spot for next year … ‘We want you back so we’re going to guarantee you can be there, you don’t have to play the qualifying match earlier in the year,” he said.
“And then France have also been put in, so you’ve got to ask the question, the President of the ITF is also French and I’m sure he’s had a big influence in that discussion. They’ve got so many things to fix if it’s going to be a success next year.
“The biggest issue was crowd. We (Australia) played our first match with about 400 people watching, and that’s a great disappointment.”

Gerard Pique if the founder of Kosmos, whose investment has enabled the transformation of the Davis cup. In a recent interview with Spanish media, he said the allocation of a wild card to France was done so the country ‘feel part of the competition because the format will continue like this.’

“We’re delighted with how everything went and above all with the final, which Spain won,” he told Onda Cero about the 2019 Davis Cup finals. “There are things which need to be improved, like the times of the games, which has an easy solution in the form of adding another court and changing the times a little bit.”

The 2020 Davis Cup qualifying rounds will get underway in March.

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Davis Cup

Roberto Bautista Agut: ‘My Father Would Have Given Me An Earful If I Had Stayed At Home’

The Spaniard opens up about his decision to return to the Davis Cup following the death of his father.

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 17: Roberto Bautista of Spain during a training session of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 17, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Diego Souto / Kosmos Tennis)

Throughout the Davis Cup finals player’s have illustrated their commitment to their country in the competition, but Roberto Bautista Agut took it to another level.

 

The world No.9 was hit with personal tragedy half-way through the event in Madrid. On November 21st Bautista Agut left the competition to return home after receiving the news that his father’s health had taken a turn for the worse. Ximo Bautista had a serious domestic accident three years ago, which caused serious health issues. He passed away shortly after his son returned home.

Grieving for the loss of his father, 18 months after his mother died, Bautista Agut attended his funeral on Saturday. 24 hours after that he was back playing in the Davis Cup once again representing Spain.

“I made the decision to go home on Thursday and I was lucky to be with my father the last minutes of his life and say goodbye to him.” Bautista Agut told reporters. “My father would have given me an earful if I had stayed at home.”

The unexpected and admirable return of the 31-year-old brought glory to his team on Sunday. In the first tie of the final, Bautista Agut disposed of Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets to hand the hosts the lead. Victory was then sealed in the following match after Rafael Nadal defeated Denis Shapovalov.

“When I took the car to come (back to the Davis Cup), the last thing on my mind was to play,” he said.
“But in the final, my head wanted to face that game, and luckily it went well.’
“I didn’t know if I could measure up, but I left everything there. The moment has been very beautiful and unrepeatable.”

World No.1 Nadal has described his rival as an ‘inspiration’ for showing his commitment to the Davis Cup. Bautista Agut played a total of three matches in the seven-day event, winning two of those. His victory over Auger-Aliassime made him only the 10th Spanish player in history to have won a match in a Davis Cup final.

“What Roberto did today (Sunday) is something out of this planet,” Nadal said. “Roberto has been an inspiration to all of us.
“Whatever happens this cannot be a climax for someone who has lost his father this week.”

The Davis Cup triumph caps off what has been a strong season for Bautista Agut, who has cracked the year-end top 10 for the first time in his career. His only title took place back in January where he won the Qatar Open. At Wimbledon he reached his first-ever grand slam semi-final. Overall, Bautista Agut achieved a win-loss of 42-22.

The Spanish No.2 will marry his longtime girlfriend next weekend.

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Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut Guide Spain To Davis Cup Glory

Spain has ended their eight-year title drought at the newly revamped competition.

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Rafael Nadal (image via Image via Kosmos Tennis)

World No.1 Rafael Nadal has clinched the Davis Cup title for Spain after defeating Denis Shapovalov in straight sets to give his country an unassailable lead in their clash against Canada.

 

Nadal, who hasn’t lost a match throughout the entire week in Madrid, overcame some spirited play from across the court to prevail 6-3, 7-6(7). Sealing the trophy for his country for the first time since 2011.

During his clash with Shapovalov, the 16-time grand slam champion broke once during the opening set, but was tested thoroughly in the second. Fighting his way through some lengthy service games with one of those lasting almost 10 minutes.

It would be a dramatic tiebreaker where he sealed the victory. It looked as if Nadal would be strolling to the win after hitting an ace to claim two match points at 6-4. However, both of those were saved by forehand winners from Shapovalov who drew level once again.  It would be third time lucky for Nadal after a shot from across the court slammed into the net. Prompting him to drop to the ground in tears of joy.

“I could not be happier. It has been an unforgettable moment in this amazing stadium (Caja Magica).” Said Nadal.
“Our team spirit prevailed. We fought hard.” He added.

The Spanish team got off to a solid start in the tie thanks to Roberto Bautista Agut’s admirable return to the competition. 31-year-old Agut left the event half-way through the week due to his seriously ill father who sadly passed away. However, he came back to Madrid and got the hosts their first point after disposing of an error-stricken Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(3), 6-3. The 19-year-old, who was playing his first match in the seven-day competition, committed 45 unforced errors.

“It was a very special feeling on the court,” Agut told Eurosport after.
“I just could go out and try my best, give my best.
“I am very happy I could win the first point for Spain.”

Image via Kosmos Tennis

The Spanish team were unbeaten on home soil this week. Scoring wins over Russia, Croatia, Argentina and Great Britain. Making them the first ever winners of the revamped Davis Cup, which featured a total of 18 teams in finale.

“It has been an amazing week. There have been a lot of things we went through.” Nadal reflected.
“The father of Roberto passed away, Marcel (Granollers) yesterday was stiff with his lower back and Pablo (Carreno-Busta) getting injured in the singles. A lot of things happened.”

Captain’s tribute

Nadal’s commitment to the competition has been hailed by captain Sergi Bruguera. Who described the world No.1 as being ‘out of this world.’ He has played in eight matches with five of those being in the singles competition. Overall, he dropped only one set in his doubles match against Russia.

“Rafa, I don’t know if he is out of this world.” Said Bruguera.
“Throughout this week I don’t think there was one day we went to sleep before 3am. One day, I think it was Friday, he went to sleep at 5:10am and then he was playing singles and doubles again (the next day).”

Although Nadal was a key figure in the triumph, it wasn’t just him that guided his country to victory. It is the sixth time in History Spain has won the event. Historically, there are now ten Spanish men who have won a match in a Davis Cup final.

“The truth is when you have this kind of moment it is difficult to describe in words because there are so many feelings. So many emotions I have never felt before.” Their captain explained.
“I have no words for this. Roberto was at his father’s funeral yesterday and now he was here (in Madrid) giving everything.’
“The mentality, spirit and concentration of the team I have no idea how to describe.”

Spain has a chance to defend their title on home soil next year with Madrid being the chosen host of the 2020 finals.

Image via Kosmos Tennis

 

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