Croatia’s chances of winning a second consecutive Davis Cup title has been dealt a blow after Marin Cilic confirmed that he will skip the tournament on medical advice.
The former US Open champion, who has been blighted by a knee injury in recent months, will miss the team tournament to ‘undergo some small interventions.’ Although he has revealed that a recent scan showed that surgery is not required on his knee. Cilic has been troubled by a recurring knee injury throughout what has been a roller coaster 2019 season for him.
“The last year and a half has been a real struggle mentally and physically for me. Even with all the preventative work and rehab my team and I did, my recurring knee injury has continued to give me problems, and as the season progressed it was becoming more evident that surgery was inevitable.” Cilic wrote in an Instagram post.
“I recently did an ultrasound and luckily the results were better than expected. The rehab work was successful enough that surgery is not necessary at this stage, however, I will need to undergo a few minor interventions which will keep me off the tennis court for a longer period and unfortunately means I will not be able to compete at the Davis Cup this month.”
The withdrawal of the 31-year-old has brought his troubled season to an end. It is the first time he hasn’t won at least one ATP title since 2007, when he claimed two Challenger titles that year. Cilic will end the season outside the top 30 for the first time since 2013.
“I will dedicate myself to getting back to form so that I can enter the 2020 season healthier, more prepared, and more motivated than ever.” He declared.
Cilic is an instrumental figure in his country’s Davis Cup team. He has won more Davis Cup matches (39) than any other Croatian player and has played in 25 ties over a 12-year period. In the Davis Cup final last year he won both of his singles matches to guide Croatia to a 3-1 win over France. Their second title in the history of the competition.
There has been no official announcement about how will replace Cilic in the team. However, one source has reported that Ivo Karlovic is set to make a return at the age of 40. Croatian newspaper Novi List claims that Karlovic has been invited to join the team should a gap arises. He has only played in the team competition once since 2013, which was in the 2016 final.
The revamped Davis Cup will get underway on November 18th. 18 teams will take part in a round-robin tournament over a week. This year’s event is being held at the Caja Magica in Spain.
Croatia has been drawn in the same group as Russia and Spain.
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
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.
Revamped Davis Cup Finale Blighted By Slow Ticket Sales
It is not going to plan for organisers of the team competition with numerous sessions yet to sell half of their tickets.
With less than two weeks to go until the start of the brand new Davis Cup format organisers have admitted for the first time that they are ‘disappointed’ with the ticket sales.
Later this month, 18 teams will take part in a week-long round-robin format in a similar structure to that of the football World Cup. The controversial changes to the competition were approved by an ITF vote last year with heavy investment from Kosmos. A company founded by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique. Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion in the event over a 25-year period.
Despite the large financial backing, it appears that the organisers are finding it harder than expected to to shift tickets. According to details obtained by the Press Association on November 5th, only nine out of the 25 sessions have managed to sell 50% or more of available tickets. Although five others are ‘close to doing so.’
“We are happy with ticket sales for the afternoon sessions and from Friday until Sunday (quarter-finals, semi-finals and final) but it’s much more difficult to sell tickets for morning sessions, as happens in all tournaments.” A Kosmos spokesperson told The Press Association.
“We are working with the 17 embassies in Spain in order to reach international communities living in Spain. We have economic prices. The cheapest ticket costs 25 euros and you can see a tie (comprising three matches).”
The venue of this year’s competition is the Caja Magica, which hosts the Madrid Open every year in May. In recent times the combined ATP/WTA has attracted more than a quarter of a million visitors each edition with numerous sessions selling out. This year a record 278,110 spectators attended. Eliminating the theory that it could be the location or venue causing the slow sales for the team event.
Both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have confirmed their intentions to play in the Davis Cup finals. However, 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer will be absent and has recently cast doubt on his future participation in the event. Daniil Medvedev, Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray are also set to play.
One of the new features of the event is that it will have both opening and closing ceremonies featuring numerous artists. On November 18th DJ Alan Walker will kick-off then event along with Puerto Rican singer Farruko. On the same day, 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.
The first four days of the Davis Cup finals will be the group stages. There will be six groups of three teams. The winners and two of the best-performing runners-up (based on number of games, sets and matches won) will then qualify for the quarter-final stage.
Rafael Nadal Urges Merger Of Davis Cup And ATP Cup
Two team events is too much for the former world No.1.
World No.2 Rafael Nadal has become the latest player to call for the two premier team events on the men’s tour to join forces in the near future.
From 2020 the Davis Cup Finals and ATP Cup will take place with less than two months separating them. November will mark the start of the revamped Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, where 18 teams will feature in a week-long round-robin format. Then in January will be the launch of the ATP Cup in Australia, which has both ranking points and prize money up for grabs. A series of high-profile players have already committed to play at both events, including Nadal and Novak Djokovic. However, the Spaniard has his concerns.
“Of course we need to fix a couple of more things on the tour to make a big, big competition. I think two team tournaments, Davis Cup and ATP Cup in one month, is something that, in my opinion, is not good.” Nadal told reporters in Paris on Sunday.
“My feeling is we need to create one big, big competition to stay together. ITF, ATP, that’s a good opportunity to make that happen and we need to make that happen.” He added.
Nadal is not alone in his calls for a potential merger with rival Djokovic saying the two events taking place in close proximity in the long-term is ‘not sustainable.’ However, trying to find a resolution is not so simple. The ITF and ATP are separate governing bodies in the sport with their own agenda of investing millions into their events. On top of that is the Laver Cup where Europe take on the rest of the world. Co-founded by Roger Federer’s Team8 Management company, the event secured a place on the ATP Calendar earlier this year.
“We have to remember they are only six weeks apart. To have two huge competitive team events in our sport so close to each other I don’t think in the long-term that’s sustainable. That probably needs to change.” Djokovic commented during the Shanghai Masters.
With the Davis Cup, it remains to be seen how much of a hit the new format will be with players. Some have criticised the changes as being too radical and even destroying the historical aspect of the 119-year-old competition. Kosmos founder and football player Gerard Pique is one of the driving forces behind the changes.
Whilst some may have their own reservations, Nadal says he will enter the competition with an open mind. Urging his fellow players to play the event before casting their verdict.
“I can’t think much (about the Davis Cup) because the thing is you need to try it to have a real opinion.” He stated.
“There are things in the old format that have not been working well. There’s other things that have been working well.’
“When this kind of stuff happens, you need to find solutions, so the solution was that and let’s see what’s going on.”
Prior to the team events, Nadal’s immediate focus this week is on the Paris Masters. An event he is yet to win in his career.
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