Davis Cup Captains Are Hopeful For Its Future But Talk Of A Move To The Middle East Proves Nothing Is For Certain - UBITENNIS
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Davis Cup Captains Are Hopeful For Its Future But Talk Of A Move To The Middle East Proves Nothing Is For Certain

Two years after the revamp format of the Davis Cup made its debut, some leading figures in the competition have called for more open dialogue and others have concerns.

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2021 Davis Cup Finals , Great Britain Team Captain Leon Smith (image via Kosmos Media)

This year will once again be another milestone in the history of the 121-year-old Davis Cup.

 

Three years after the ITF board approved plans for a massive overhaul of the team competition, this year’s finals are taking place in multiple cities for the first time. Innsbruck, Turin and Madrid will host the competition with the final being played in the Spanish capital. Which is also the home country of Kosmos, the financial investment firm who have pledged $3bn into the Davis Cup over a 25-year period.

On the eve of the finals getting underway, The Telegraph published an article reporting that the event is set to head to the Middle East in the near future. According to their sources, the United Arab Emirates is set to host the event in what could be a five-year deal. Something which many considered was unthinkable just a decade ago for an event which was known for its home and away ties.

On the same day as rumours of a move to the Middle East was on the cards, one Davis Cup captain has called for there to be more dialogue. Leon Smith, who led Great Britain to the title back in 2015, told reporters that he has heard rumours about what may happen in the future but nothing official. A somewhat frustrating situation for him and other team captains.

“I’m hearing that some things might be happening next year, but only hearing it second hand. It would be good to talk about it before decisions are made,” said Smith. “We are close to the players and so long as we all feel we know what works well. I know Kosmos wants it to be great, but it would be great to make us feel more included. We know what works and in the end of the day we all want big crowds. Have the best players available.’
“Davis Cup is not always about finances, it’s about the emotions and the atmosphere. I hear snippets of information and I don’t know if it’s true or not.” He added.

The Organisers are keen to learn from what happened two years ago in Madrid with some ties going on until the early hours in the morning and inconsistency concerning the number of fans attending the event throughout its duration.

“We can’t control what happens in the future. Talking to anybody: the atmosphere, the environment is so important. I know that things have to change. Kosmos will try to find what’s best, but there’s got to be an open dialogue about the future of the competition.” Smith commented.

In Innsbruck players are facing one big difference compared to those playing in the two other countries. Due to Austria entering lockdown earlier this week because of COVID-19 levels, fans are prohibited from attending the event. Meaning there will be no cheers for Novak Djokovic’s Serbia, Germany or the host nation.

Former world No.20 and 2002 Australian Open quarter-finalist Stefan Koubek is the head of Team Austria. Like others in the sport, he still misses the old Davis Cup format but admits that the chances of the competition reverting back to its original form are extremely low. One of the arguments for the changes was to generate greater financial investment.

“The Davis Cup is the Davis Cup. But it’s not what it used to be when I was still playing. The home matches are sorely missed and you can’t compensate for that,” he said. “We would have had the home advantage here, as we are playing in Innsbruck. Abroad, we would also have our hardcore fans – they are feeling the loss of not being able to attend the most – but it’s still different. It’s a useless discussion. I have a feeling that it won’t ever be like it used to be.”

German captain Michael Kohlmann believes fans and critics need to give the Davis Cup a chance to find its footing. The competition was axed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although he fears the global travel required for tennis fans to attend the finals each year will be problematic. Even more so if the report of it moving to the Middle East is true. A region where no country has a Davis Cup team ranked in the world’s top 70.

“I think that this format has to be given a chance, but I don’t think that the fans will travel around the world each and every year. It’s not like football,” Kohlmann commented. “The fans are a big factor – as we’ve seen ourselves in 2018 in Australia and in Spain, where the tie was played in a bullring arena. This just isn’t possible with this kind of set-up. Now, you have to be lucky to play in front of your home crowd in the qualification round.”

This year’s Davis Cup finals will feature 18 teams. Out of the 88 nominated players only Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Marin Cilic have previously won a Grand Slam title in singles. Furthermore, only two players are under the age of 20 compared to 41 who are aged over 30.

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WTA Suspends All Tournaments In China With Immediate Effect

In a statement WTA CEO Steve Simon says the decision has been made following concerns raised about the welfare of Peng Shuai.

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The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended all of their tournaments in both China and Hong Kong due to what they described as a failure by the Chinese government to address serious claims of sexual harassment made by Peng Shuai against a former senior official.

 

Shuai, who is a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No.1 in doubles, published a post on her Weibo account on November 2nd accusing former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex with him. She also said the two have a one-and-off affair over a 10-year period. The post was deleted less than an hour after publication and her Weibo account is still under restriction. Shuai has not spoken in public since that post but has conducted a private video call with the IOC and two other members. One of which has links to the Chinese government. Meanwhile, state media outlets have previously published videos and photos of the tennis star claiming that she is well.

However, the WTA has repeatedly voiced concerns that Shuai is being censored by authorities due to the allegations she made against a former government official. CEO Steve Simon told reporters that he has repeatedly tried to contact Shuai but failed to get through. He has received two emails from Shuai, which was leaked online, purporting to be from her. However, the organisation believes Shuai wrote them under the influence of others.

“Chinese officials have been provided the opportunity to cease this censorship, verifiably prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate the allegation of sexual assault in a full, fair and transparent manner. Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” Simon said in a statement.
“While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.”

Now in a dramatic turn of events, Simon has suspended all WTA events taking place in China next year after receiving backing from the board of directors. A sensational development given the country has generated millions of pounds in revenue for the Tour in recent years and has been a key area for their development as a business. In 2022 China was set to host 10 events which include the prestigious season-ending WTA Finals. A tournament which has the biggest prize money pool for women outside of the four Grand Slams. However, no tournament was held in the country in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong,” Simon stated. “In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

The WTA has said that they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their players regardless of the financial ramifications which may occur.

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Former World No.4 Johanna Konta Retires From Tennis

The multiple Grand Slam semi-finalist says she has run out of steam as she starts a new chapter in her life.

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Johanna Konta (@the_LTA on Twitter)

Johanna Konta has announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 30 in a statement published on her social media accounts on Wednesday morning.

 

Konta, who reached the semi-finals at three different Grand Slam tournaments, said her ‘playing career had come to an end’ in a statement which was titled ‘Grateful.’ A word she said she used the most during her professional career. The revelation comes after recent speculation about the British player’s future in the sport with some saying she will not be playing at the Australian Open. Konta hadn’t played a match on the WTA Tour since August due to a knee injury. An issue which has been bothering her in recent years.

“Grateful: This is the word that I’ve probably used the most during my career, and is the word that I feel explains it best at the end,” Konta wrote.
“My playing career has come to an end, and I am so incredibly grateful for the career that it turned out to be. All the evidence pointed towards me not ‘making’ it in this profession. However my luck materialised in the people that came into my life and impacted my existence in ways that transcended tennis. I am so incredibly grateful for these people. You know who you are.
“Through my own resilience and through the guidance of others, I got to live my dreams. I got to become what I wanted and said as a child. How incredibly fortunate I count myself to be. How grateful I am.”

Born in Sydney, Australia to Hungarian parents, Konta played for Great Britain since 2012 when she officially became a British citizen. She first moved to the country at the age of 14. During her professional career, Konta was the poster girl for British tennis after achieving a series of accolades. In October 2016 she became the first female player from her country to break into the world’s top 10 in over 30 years. A year later at Wimbledon she became the first British woman to reach the last four since Virginia Wade back in 1977.

“On behalf of the LTA and everyone involved in British Tennis I want to express my appreciation to Johanna for her hugely impressive career,” LTA CEO Scott Lloyd said in a statement. “To reach the semifinals of three slams and spend more time as British number one than any other woman since the WTA rankings began, shows the level of her achievements. We wish her well in the future, and hope that she will continue to play a role in British tennis in the years to come.”

On the WTA Tour Konta finished four seasons ranked in the world’s top 20 and achieved a ranking high of fourth in July 2017. She won a total of four titles with the most recent occurring at the Nottingham Open earlier this year. She also won two titles in 2017 (Sydney and Miami), as well as one in 2016 at Stanford. Konta was also a runner-up on five other occasions at the 2016 China Open, twice at the Nottingham Open, 2018 Italian Open and 2018 Rabat International.

A former Olympian, Konta recorded more than 20 wins over top 10 players throughout her career. Some of the players she beat include Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova.

The physical demands of playing tennis at the highest level took their toll on Konta in recent years. In June she admitted that her knee problem may be a long-term issue she would have to deal with after not paying attention to the issue earlier on. She also dealt with other issues such as a thigh injury forcing her to miss the US Open in September.

“For me, it’s just about putting my emotional, mental, physical well-being in the position to put that energy and work in to be able to do that. It’s that link of being able to convince yourself to be in pain. I just ran out of steam for it,” Konta told WTA Insider.
“So when you get to that point, you can’t put your best self on display because you haven’t put in the work for it and you just don’t have the energy to put in the work for it.”

Konta, who made her pro debut in 2006, held the British No.1 spot for 5 years and 11 months consecutively which is the longest ever run since the WTA rankings was created back in 1975.

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Sports Minister Rejects Accusation Of ‘Blackmail’ Against Novak Djokovic

Martin Pakula said all players have a responsibility whilst in his country.

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INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 27: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2021 at OlimpiaWorld on November 27, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria. (Photo by Pedro Salado / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

A senior member of the Victorian government has dismissed an allegation by the father of world No.1 Novak Djokovic that Australian Open organisers are blackmailing him.

 

Srdjan Djokovic said on Sunday morning that it is ‘likely’ his son wouldn’t be playing in the upcoming Grand Slam tournament due to their participation policy. All players taking part in the 2022 tournament are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in line with a health mandate that has been implemented in Victoria, the region where the event is held. Under current guidelines, players will also be tested before and upon arrival in the country.

Under these blackmails and conditions, he probably won’t play,’ Srdjan told TV Prava. ‘I wouldn’t do that, and he’s my son, so you figure out for yourself if he is going to play or not.’

Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open a record nine times, has continuously refused to publicly disclose if he is vaccinated against COVID-19 or not. Arguing that he would like to keep his medical records private. However, it has fuelled speculation that he isn’t vaccinated and therefore is unable to play in Australia. When asked about his plans for the start of 2022 at the ATP Finals in Turin, he replied ‘we’ll see’ without elaborating any further.

Martin Pakula is the sports minister for Victoria. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he denied that authorities are ‘blackmailing’ the 20-time Grand Slam champion in any way. Arguing it is the responsibility of all players to follow the same rules of those living in the state.

“If you’re a visiting international tennis player or a visiting sportsman of any kind, it’s about your responsibility to the community that you are being welcomed into,” ABC Australia quoted Pakula as saying.
“And that’s why we are asking those international tennis stars to follow the same requirements as Victorians are.
“It’s not about blackmail, it’s about making sure the Victorian community is protected.
“I want to make it clear that I really hope that Novak Djokovic gets vaccinated and plays in the Australian Open, but if he chooses not to that’s a matter for him.”

Should Djokovic not play in Australia he will miss out on the chance of breaking the all-time record for most Grand Slam titles won by a male player. He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at 20 each. Furthermore, it is possible that should he not play Daniil Medvedev might claim the No.1 ranking but the Russian would need to practically win every match he plays. Although this depends on what and how many tournaments he plays in.

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 17th. Djokovic has never missed the event since his debut back in 2005.

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