Gerard Pique, ITF Dreaming Of Two-Week Tennis Super Cup Despite Concerns - UBITENNIS
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Gerard Pique, ITF Dreaming Of Two-Week Tennis Super Cup Despite Concerns

It seems this week’s new Davis Cup Finals is only the start of what the ITF hopes to do in the future.

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 16: Gerard Pique speaks at the Official Dinner of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Galeria de Cristal Palacio de Cibeles on November 16, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos / Kosmos Tennis)

Two key stakeholders of the revamped Davis Cup have both voiced their backing to an even more ambitious project that will include women’s tennis as well.

 

ITF president David Haggerty and Kosmos founder Gerard Pique are hoping that they will be able to one day combine the Davis Cup and Fed Cup so that both tournaments coincide with each other. Something that has never been done in the history of the sport. At present the Davis Cup finals take place at the end of the season in November and the Fed Cup equivalent is held in April. From 2020 both events will have the same structure.

“We recently announced, the Fed Cup finals will be in Budapest for the next three years beginning in April 2020. Long-term, it would make a lot of sense to have a combined competition, our Davis Cup and our Fed Cup kind of the World Cup of Tennis together.” Haggerty told reporters on Sunday.
“But I think we take things step by step because it takes a lot of stakeholders to make a change like that. But it could be great for the game.”

Whilst the idea of a super cup sounds like a logical idea, in reality it is much harder for such a plan to come to life. The tennis calendar is already crammed and having a two-week event at the end of the year would eat into player’s off-season rest period. Something that would not go down too well. The ITF and ATP have previously held discussions about moving the Davis Cup finals, but failed to come to an agreement.

Pique, whose company will $3 billion into the Davis Cup over 25 years, has voiced his desire to one day also inject financial support into the Fed Cup. Saying his company has shown interest from ‘day one.’ However, his immediate focus is on the men’s event.

“Since day one, I think we showed interest to the ITF. What we said to them is obviously we wanted to go step by step. And Davis Cup on itself, it was a big, big project. We don’t want to try to do too much because then you don’t do things right.” He said.
“So for us now, we are fully focused on trying to year-by-year, make this competition and this event even better and bigger. And in three years, let’s see where we are.”

New leadership, new deal?

The hopes of both Pique and Haggerty is that they will be able to strike a new agreement with the man who replaces Chris Kermode as the head of the ATP. Andrea Gaudenzi, who is a former top 20 player from Italy, will take the position next year. Gaudenzi played 33 matches in the Davis Cup between 1994-2000.

It is the ATP’s rival team event that is causing the deadlock between the two governing bodies. The ATP Cup will start in January with both ranking points and prize money up for grabs.

“In tennis one of the biggest challenges we face as a sport is the calendar. And the ITF and Kosmos have always said that we are very open to have conversations, and we will with the ATP, there’s new leadership, to talk about the calendar.” Haggerty stated.

Barcelona centre-back Pique is also optimistic that a deal can be organised where the Davis Cup and ATP Cup could one day be merged into one. Something that has been publicly back by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Although if that were to happen, it is unclear as to how the Fed Cup could also factor in.

“I think it’s the best for tennis. It makes no sense to have right now two different competitions that are very similar. And this is the way we are going. We are very happy that in the next few months I think we will start talking again with the ATP. And I hope in the next few months we can announce something.”

The problems

Whilst big plans have been laid out for the future, there are more pressing concerns that need attention sooner. The week-long Davis Cup finals wasn’t without it’s blips. The most noticeable being one of the group ties going on until four in the morning. The last match to be played was the second latest-finishing match in the history of the sport.

Options are now on the table about what to do about this issue for 2020. One of which involves the possibility of building a fourth court.

“To build a fourth court to try to solve the problem with the issue about the times, and if it’s in WiZink Center here in Madrid or maybe to build a fourth court here in La Caja Mágica.” Pique commented.
“Both options are right now are on the table. We will ask the players, at the end of the day, the opinion of the players are the most, that matters for us, to see what they want, what they prefer.”

Another topic was the crowd. With the exception of the home nation, there was certain ties that had low attendance compared to that of the old format. Highlighting one of the negatives to hosting such a big multi-national event in one city. However, Pique has an alternative theory.

“I think that a lot of people didn’t know what to expect or they didn’t know how the format will go. So there were a lot of people that were waiting to see what will happen and then decide for next year.”

Elaborating further, Haggerty acknowledges that not everything is perfect.

“We’re going to listen to all the stakeholders. We feel that it’s a fantastic start, a great foundation, but there are always improvements, as Gerard said, that we will make.” He concluded.

Davis Cup

Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics

After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.

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The area around the Olympic Rings and Olympic Stadium - (image via olympics.com)

Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics. 

 

The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events. 

Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.

“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”

The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.  

“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”

In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).

Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”

Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.

The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th. 

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Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade

A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.

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London's O2 Arena, venue of the ATP World Tour Finals between 2009-2020 (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.

 

UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.

“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”

When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.

The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.

This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.

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Davis Cup Finals To Become Three-City Event From 2021

Austria and Italy join Spain in hosting the finale of the men’s team competition.

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The International Tennis Federation has approved a plan to transform the Davis Cup finals into a three-city event with it taking place over a longer duration.

 

Starting from 2021 the finals of the 121-year-old men’s team competition will be held across three European venues which are set to have ‘similar conditions.’ Madrid, who hosted the event back in 2019, will remain the location for both the semi-finals and finals. Additionally, Turin in Italy and Innsbruck in Austria will co-host the event with each of them staging two of the six groups, as well as one quarter-final.

The development is the latest change made by the ITF in partnership with Kosmos, who have pledged to invest $3 billion in the sport over a 25-year period. Kosmos is the key driving force being the recent transformation of the competition and was founded by footballer Gerard Pique.

“The proposals announced in January were aimed at providing a better schedule for players while bringing the competition to new audiences and improving the experience for fans. Following a thorough bid process, we are delighted to be able to confirm Innsbruck and Turin as co-hosts alongside Madrid. We are confident that, together, they will deliver an outstanding world championship event for players and fans alike.” ITF Senior Executive Director, Professional Tennis, Kris Dent, said in a statement.

As a result of Turin’s and Innsburk’s inclusion in the finals, the competition has been extended from seven days to 11 days. A total of 18 teams are set to take part in the finals which wasn’t held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From next year the number of teams will be reduced to 16. The ITF confirmed the schedule of tournaments will be issued in the ‘coming weeks.’

Former French Open champion Albert Costa says the two cities have been selected to ‘ensure a smooth transition’ between countries for players. Costa, who is Director of the Davis Cup Finals, has stressed that the conditions of each venue are similar to each other.

We are very excited to bring the Davis Cup Finals to Innsbruck and Turin. Both cities submitted impressive bids that not only promise a world class experience for players and fans, but also include stringent measures to ensure the health and safety of all in attendance,” said Costa.
“It was important to find two European cities that were well connected to Madrid, with similar playing conditions, to provide a smooth transition for players travelling from other venues. With confirmation of the three venues, we are already working hard to offer the best possible event in 2021. We are also liaising closely with the Region of Madrid and the City Council as thanks to their support, Madrid remains as the main venue for this year.”

There are questions about if the move will be enough to attract the top names. Due to the extension, the event will result in the off-season being reduced by a week. A key period for many players who used it for training.There are also questions about the decision to launch a multi-county tournament this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will each country having their own rules.

The Davis Cup finals are set to take place between November 25th and December 5th.

Venues of 2021 Davis Cup Finals

Madrid Arena, Madrid (ESP)

  • Group A: Spain, Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Ecuador
  • Group B: Canada, Kazakhstan, Sweden
  • Quarter-finals: Winner Group A v group runner-up; Winner Group B v group runner-up
  • Semi-finals and final

Olympia-Halle, Innsbruck (AUT)

  • Group C: France, Great Britain, Czech Republic
  • Group F: Serbia, Germany, Austria
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group C v Winner Group F

Pala Alpitour Arena, Turin (ITA)

  • Group D: Croatia, Australia, Hungary
  • Group E: USA, Italy, Colombia
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group D v Winner Group E

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