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.”
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.
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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