LONDON: Alexander Zverev has said he hopes people realize that the Davis Cup is more than money as he launched a fresh attack on the restructured competition.
Next week will be the first time in history that the Davis Cup finals will take place over a week with 18 teams participating. Unlike the past with home and away finals, teams will battle it out in a format similar to that of the FIFA World Cup with group stages deciding who will progress to the quarterfinals. The revamp has been made possible following a 25-year $3 billion investment from Kosmos, which was founded by Barcelona footballer Gerald Pique.
Despite the controversial changes, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray have all pledged to play. However, Zverev will be one of the players absent. Instead, he will travel to South America to play in a series of exhibition matches with Roger Federer.
“I don’t think the format is Davis Cup anymore. I think Davis Cup is the most historic event that we have in tennis, which is over 100 years old, and the Davis Cup is the home-and-away ties.” Zverev said following his win at the ATP Finals on Friday.
“Davis Cup is the whole atmosphere, the play over three days to play five sets and play those tough matches. That’s Davis Cup for me, and not playing it at one venue for one week and deciding it all. That’s not Davis Cup.”
The Caja Magica, which hosts the Madrid Open in May, will be the venue of the Davis Cup finale next week. Leading up to the event, there have been concerns over ticket sales for some of the sessions. Meanwhile, former world No.1 Murray has previously expressed uncertainty over the distribution of tickets for the later stages of the event.
“From what I hear we’ve (the British LTA) sold a lot of tickets and will have a decent fanbase out there.” Said Murray.
“But how does that work if we get through to the quarter-finals – who has tickets for that? How many can stay? We’ll see but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.”
It remains to be seen how much of a hit the new format will be. Although Pique and co are determined to prove their critics wrong. Besides tennis, there will also be opening and closing ceremonies. On November 18th DJ Alan Walker will kick-off then event along with Puerto Rican singer Farruko. On the same day, the Spanish band Taburete will play on the main stadium following the first match between Croatia and Russia. The closing ceremony on the 24th will be headlined by Shakira, who is the wife of Kosmos founder Pique.
Despite the much-needed investment into the Davis Cup, which has encountered financial issues in recent years, Zverev isn’t convinced. Arguing that there is more to the event than money.
“I hope people realize that the Davis Cup is more than just money and all that like they are offering us now. It’s history, and it’s tennis history.” He said.
“It’s more than just what’s on the table for the players now.”
The absence of Zverev is undoubtedly a major blow to the German team. He is one of four players from his country in the top 100, but the only one inside the top 30. Reacting to his absence, Boris Becker has insisted that there are no hard feelings.
“He’s old enough to make his own decision. He decided amongst a few other players when the decision was made to change the Davis Cup format and to have it in one week next year not to participate.” Becker said earlier this week.
“He’s done the decision already a while ago amongst many other players. We accept it.”
As for the decision to play in South America during the same time as the Davis Cup, Becker has defended Zverev. Saying he is entitled to do what he wants.
“What he does in his off time, he’s his own man. We were all our own boss. What he chooses to do or not to do between the end of the ATP Finals and the beginning of 2020 is his choice.” He stated.
Zverev is already qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games, but he will need to return to the event if he will be eligible to play in future games. Under rules set out by the International Tennis Federation, who runs both the Davis Cup and Olympic competitions. Although players can apply for special exemptions.
Heather Bowler is the director of communications for the ITF. In a recent email exchange with Ubitennis, she stated that her organization intends to make no changes to their Olympic eligibility criteria.
“World rankings have always been used to determine entries to the Olympic Tennis Event. However all International Sports Federations represented at the Games use their global competitions as part of their Olympic Qualification criteria, and the ITF believes that it is appropriate that participants should show a commitment to representing their national team.” Said Bowler.
The Davis Cup finals will get underway on Monday.
Is Covid-19 Just An Excuse To Axe The 2020 Davis Cup Finals?
The decision to cancel the team event five months before it was set to start may be more complex than what officials are letting on.
On Friday the International Tennis Federation issued a statement to confirm that their two premier tennis team events will not be taking place this year.
The Davis Cup and Fed Cup tournaments have been delayed until 2021 due to the global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Davis Cup, it is only the 12th time in history a season has ended without a champion being decided since its birth in 1900 and the first since 1945. The teams that have qualified for the week-long finals this year will instead have to wait until November 2021 to battle it out for the title.
“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”
There are however some questions over why the ITF has made this announcement five months before the start of the tournament. Especially when both the ATP and WTA Tours are set to restart in August. Furthermore Madrid, where this year’s finals were scheduled to take place, will still host their premier combined event at the Caja Magica in September.
“It’s the inconsistencies that I find tedious. Two months before the Davis Cup was meant to be playing we are playing at the same venue in Madrid for the masters. In regards to the crowds there seemed to be a fair bit of social distancing at this event last year,” John Millman wrote on Twitter.
It appears that there could be a more substantial financial reason to postpone the Kosmos-backed event. Investment company Kosmos was founded by Gerard Pique and has pledged millions into the Davis Cup in a deal to help revamp it. French newspaper L’Equipe have quoted sources reporting that the event lost an astonishing 50 million euros in 2019, which was the first year where the new format took place. Furthermore, it has been reported that the decision to scrap November’s event will help save 18 million euros.
Furthermore, one senior figure at Tennis Canada has suggested that Pique had tried to do everything he could to prevent the tournament from taking place. Louis Borfiga, who serves as his country’s Vice President of High Performance, said he believes there has been no meetings with the federations prior to Friday’s announcement.
“While everyone is doing everything possible to try to replay, I have the impression that Piqué did everything to prevent the Davis Cup from taking place this year,” he said in a separate interview with L’Equipe.
“ They (Kosmos leaders) put forward health reasons, I hope they are the right ones. They are going to have the right role. There is nothing we can say about health.”
“When I read the official press release, I am surprised by one thing. It is Piqué who speaks first, and the president of the ITF (David Haggerty) after. That too is shocking.” He added.
Borfiga is not alone in this view. Back in March tennis player Nicola Mahut criticised Pique for not being more optimistic about holding the finals this year. The Spaniard had previously said he was ‘pessimistic’ about having the event without fans.
“The message he sent through his statements is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it will be cancelled and he will save some money.” Mahut commented.
According to Diario AS, the Madrid economy will lose in the region of 50 million euros due to the finals not being held. Furthermore, it is estimated that 600 jobs would have been created to support the running of the tournament from start to finish.
Gerard Pique’s Pessimistic Davis Cup Outlook Blasted By French Tennis Star
The football player has been urged to ‘put more energy’ in finding a solution for the event to take place in 2020.
Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has come under fire over his plans for the Davis Cup Finals later this year after recently casting doubt on the event taking place due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Pique, whose company helped finance the transformation of the 120-year-old team competition, recently admitted that he was doubtful that the event could go ahead if crowds weren’t allowed to attend. Last year was the first time the new format of the competition took place with 18 teams featuring in a week-long round-robin tournament which was won by host nation Spain.
“I’m a bit pessimistic, to have the Davis Cup with no fans is difficult,” Pique told Movistar.
“There is a lot of uncertainty. We are listening to what the sport’s ministry and the government are telling us about whether we’ll have the ability to have fans.”
All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic. Officials are hoping to be able to get the sport going again in August ahead of the US Open that is scheduled to take place. Although some have doubts about the chances of the Tour’s starting by then, including world No.43 John Millman.
Amid the ongoing uncertainty, French tennis star Nicolas Mahut has criticized Pique’s bleak outlook for this year’s Davis Cup finale. The 38-year-old has represented his country in 13 ties, including the 2018 final as well as the semifinals in two other years.
“We don’t have a lot of information. But as a player, you can just trust the official statements. And when I hear Pique, I’m extremely disappointed,” Mahut told L’Equipe.
Mahut has called on Pique to explore more options such as potentially relocating the event to another country if it would make it safer for the event to go ahead. Implying that he was his duty to do so after setting ‘to destroy the formula’ of the event. Critics of the revamp have accused Pique of ruining the traditional competition.
“I would like him to put as much energy into saving the Davis Cup that he has set up. That is to say, to find solutions for it to take place in Madrid or elsewhere, as he has set to destroy the formula that had been in place for over a hundred years,” he said,
“The message he sent through his statements, is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it cancels and I save some money. ” And it bothers me a lot compared to what has happened for more than a year. We don’t play with this competition. Maybe that suits it.”
Kosmos has signed a $3 billion 25-year deal with the ITF to acquire the rights for the Davis Cup Finals.
Davis Cup Finals In Doubt, Admits Gerard Pique
The Kosmos founder explains why he isn’t too optimistic about the team event going ahead later this year.
The chances of this year’s Davis Cup Finals taking place are still up in the air with one of the key figures involved in the competition openly saying that he is ‘pessimistic’ about its chances.
Football star Gerard Pique is one the driving forces behind the new format following a huge financial investment from his company Kosmos. Signing a 25-year deal with the International Tennis Federation worth in the region of $3 billion. Despite the significant investment, Pique admits that he has low hopes of the event taking place later this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All professional tennis tournaments have been halted since March.
“There is a lot of uncertainty, we try to be aware of what the government says regarding sports and to whether we can put spectators inside the Caja Magica,” Pique said during an interview with Movistar.
“I would say I am a bit pessimistic, because a Davis Cup without fans is difficult.
“I think that nobody at the moment has the certainty that we can put fans in or if it will have to be behind closed doors. As the days go by, I suppose we will have a little more clarity.”
Spain is currently in the process of relaxing some of their lockdown restrictions with tennis players being able to train at local facilities from next week. The country is following a four-stage plan with the hope that their premier La Liga football league will resume next month at some stage.
However, the issue for the Davis Cup is the limited number of fans that would be able to go to the tournament if it takes place. In more advanced stages of the plans, no more than 50 people can attend an indoor venue. Although the number could be increased by November, it will be a stark difference to 2019. Held at the Caja Magica, the total capacity of the premier court is 12,500 people.
Last year’s final saw Spain lift the title for the first time since 2011 after they defeated Canada in the final. The two teams are seeded third and sixth in this year’s draw.
The Davis Cup is scheduled to take place between November 23-29 in Madrid. The ATP, WTA and ITF will not restart their Tour’s until at least July 13th, however, there is speculation that the suspension will be extended in the coming weeks.
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