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Davis Cup

Davis Cup: Croatia Replaces Captain Just Days Before The Finals

Zeljko Krajan is fired by the Croatian Federation because of contrasts with players. His replacement will be Franko Skugor. Ivo Karlovic was selected to replace Cilic but declined to play a Challenger in Houston

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Croatian Davis Cup captain Zeljko Krajan - 2018 Davis Cup Final (photo Gianni Ciaccia - Sportvision)

The Croatian Tennis Federation has issued a press release informing that Zeljko Krajan is no longer the Davis Cup captain for the Croatian team. Less than a week before the BNP Paribas Davis Cup Finals at the Caja Magica in Madrid, Krajan’s departure is described as a mutual decision by the official press release, but according to Croatian press agency Hina the former captain categorically denied this version of the events and confirmed he unwillingly had to acknowledge his dismissal. Krajan did not deny there had been disputes between himself and the Federation, but he thought everything had been settled: “I was ready for the press conference on Monday and the departure to Madrid on Tuesday” he said.

 

During the press conference in Zagreb on Monday, instead, the Croatian Tennis Federation named 32-year-old Franko Skugor as the new captain of the Croatian team who will lead the squad in Madrid next week: “These are not the ideal conditions for the team, given the situation, but it has been decided I will lead the team” said Skugor to the press. The President of the Tennis Federation Nikolina Babic explained their decision to replace the captain and confirmed the players agreed with this course of action: “Krajan had lost credibility among the players. We spoke to him and realized it would be better if he didn’t come to Madrid”.

This ends a tumultuous week for Croatian tennis: first there was Marin Cilic’s withdrawal from the team, then the controversial nomination of 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic as his replacement, despite his commitment to play the Houston Challenger next week to boost his chances for a Top 100 year-end ranking (he is currently n. 106) and a direct entry into the 2020 Australian Open singles main draw.

Some media outlets in Zagreb claiming to have access to inside sources are suggesting there are also financial issues behind the events of this last week: it is believed that some players did not like the idea of late-comer Ivo Karlovic receiving an equal share of the Davis Cup prize money. Furthermore, it is highlighted how the decision to remove Krajan from his post came after a meeting that included also the players, some of whom did not have a good relationship with Krajan: Borna Coric refused to play in Davis Cup in 2017 after being excluded from the Final in 2016 and Mate Pavic was kept out of the team on many occasions despite being one of the best doubles players in the world.

In order to replace Marin Cilic, the new Croatian captain nominated both Borna Gojo (ATP n. 279) and Nino Serdarusic (ATP n. 283) as singles players.

Davis Cup

Novak Djokovic Refuses To Blame Fatigue For Davis Cup Defeat

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Novak Djokovic at the 2023 Davis Cup Finals in Malaga (photo by Marta Magni)

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. 

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Davis Cup

Novak Djokovic At Odds With British Captain Smith Over Behaviour Of Davis Cup Crowd

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Novak Djokovic practicing at the 2023 Davis Cup finals (photo by Marta Magni)

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. 

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Davis Cup

‘Not The best’ – Novak Djokovic Gives His Verdict On Davis Cup Format

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MALAGA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 22: Novak Djokovic of Serbia speaks to the media in a press conference prior to the Davis Cup Finals at Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena on November 22, 2023 in Malaga, Spain. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for ITF)

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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