EXCLUSIVE: Chief Of Kosmos Tennis Addresses Davis Cup Concerns, Staging Event Outside Of Europe
The managing director of Kosmos Tennis speaks exclusively to Ubitennis about the historic team competition which is currently taking place across four European cities. Enric Rojas isn’t somebody to sugarcoat things and confirmed that some aspects of the event will be ‘reviewed’ in the coming weeks.
Since its birth in 1900, the Davis Cup has gone through its fair share of changes but nothing as extraordinary as what happened four years ago.
At the International Tennis Federation’s annual AGM meeting a motion was passed which saw the competition remodelled into an 18-team event held at the end of the season. The move divided tennis with critics furious at the decision to remove the tradition of home and away ties. In the coming years, further adjustments have been made to the event with this year’s competition featuring four group ties held in different cities in September with eight qualifying for the finals in November.
The revamp was only made possible following a huge 25-year investment from Kosmos which was valued at $3bn (£2.15bn). Kosmos is a Spanish-based investment firm founded by Barcelona FC footballer Gerald Pique. The company has their own specific branch designated for tennis which has been led by CEO Enric Rojas since 2020 who had previously worked for IMG. It is fair to say that Rojas has his work cut out as he continues to deal with critics of his organization to this present day.
Over the past week, some players and fans have criticized the Davis Cup concerning a couple of issues. Ubitennis raised these concerns during a call with Rojas who also outlined Kosmos’ current position and their future plans.
UBITENNIS: The Davis Cup has undergone many changes in its history. This year four cities are hosting the group stages and then the final is in Malaga. Is this the final format or do you foresee any additional changes being made to the schedule of the event?
ROJAS: We have done this evolution (on making adjustments to the Davis Cup formats) until this year with four groups of four in September and then the finals in Malaga. This format of having the qualifiers in week five, group stages in week 37 and the finals in week 47 are going to stay.
We don’t expect any changes going forward, it’s a format that is working. We need to improve a few things as you can imagine. But it’s a format that is going to stay.
UBITENNIS: You mentioned improvements, one thing that has raised concerns is the late-night finishes. For example, Great Britain’s tie with the USA didn’t end until 0100 BST. Do you think the ties should begin at midday to make it fairer?
ROJAS: That’s a good question. Although this format is staying, we still need to improve a few things and this is one element that we will put on the table at the end of the group stage for us to review together with the ITF. We thought with these timings that these slots would be great. Especially in central Europe, and western Europe.
We thought starting around this time when people were starting to finish work would be better but this has had an effect on the match times. We review this and are open to making changes if we feel that it is better to start earlier.
UBITENNIS: Another thing people have been speaking about is the prices of tickets. In Germany, one player was quoted in their press conference as saying that he felt it was ‘totally understandable that a lot of fans won’t come (to the Davis Cup) because it is brutally expensive.’ When a player is saying these things, how do you address this?
ROJAS: There are federations, even private promoters, involved in the organization of the group stages. We (Kosmos) are also the promoter on behalf of the ITF and with our investments, we need to keep everybody happy and also have a bit of return on our investment because in the end there is also a private element to those investments.
It’s true that the attendance was not as great as we were looking for. This is another thing we are going to review. We are going to speak with the promoters there, as well as the German federation, to see what we have done wrong and what we can do differently. One of the aims is the pricing because we thought we did our benchmarking for thinking what is the best price for having full attendance. Not having a full attendance, which is our main goal, is something that we need to review again.
UBITENNIS: You have spoken a lot about reviewing certain aspects of the competition. What exactly is the review process?
ROJAS: It’s a combination of three parties – ITF, Kosmos and the host cities. We have worked really hard together. Sometimes we have different views on the organisation and operations, as well as the pricing and everything. But we will sit down together at the end of the Davis Cup and see what we can do.
UBITENNIS: One of Kosmos’ aims is to market the Davis Cup to the world. So when do you think ties will start to be held outside of Europe?
ROJAS: We have another year in Malaga, we have many years with different promoters and federations for the group stages in Europe. It all depends on who will be classified (qualified) for the next group stages.
It could happen that one of our promoters for the next five years is not from a European federation and their (national) team has not qualified. We will need to find other places if that happens if we can not give them a wildcard etc.
So it can happen at any time (moving ties outside of Europe). During the next five years, we could go to another continent. The beauty of this change we did last year is that playing in week 37 after the US Open, as well as going into the Asian swing, opens the door for us to be everywhere.
With the Davis Cup Finals, we still have another year in Malaga. With this calendar we agreed with the ITF and ATP, we have the freedom to go anywhere. You can stay in the Americas after the US Open or you can go back to Europe or even somewhere in Asia. This is another reason why we changed the format to have this door open.
UBITENNIS: There have been reports about staging events in The Middle East in the past. Is that still on the cards?
ROJAS: It’s quite public that we were having conversations to host the finals in the Middle East. It’s an option as well. We are not having any active conversations now, we are waiting for the end of this year. At the finals, we are inviting a lot of potential cities, countries, promoters and governments to come to discuss what is next from 2023 onwards.
The calendar now allows us to go everywhere. It’s true that the ATP Finals will happen in Europe for a few years and it is always better to stay as close as possible to the ATP Finals. But the Middle East is always an option. The process is very open right now and finding the next host cities for the finals will start next year.
If one of the host cities doesn’t qualify, then we will need to find a replacement for the group stages, as well.
UBITENNIS: Kosmos is focused on the Davis Cup but do you have any ambitions to expand elsewhere in tennis?
ROJAS: Currently, we organize the Davis Cup and we also have a management company which manages a few players. At the moment we are going to keep doing these two businesses. We expect to grow quite a lot if possible in the management business. We have our eyes open for opportunities but at the moment we are going to stay as we are. But as a group Kosmos always have their eyes open to see opportunities. In the last few months, we have not been discussing or starting any opportunities but you never know.
ITF Vice-President Calls Former World No.1 Doubles Star Mahut ‘Ignorant’ Over Davis Cup Comments
Bernard Giudicelli’s controversial remarks about the 41-year-old tennis player have sparked a backlash from some top names within the French tennis circuit.
A war of words has broken out between one of France’s most respected Davis Cup players and the former head of the country’s tennis federation following comments he made about the event.
Nicolas Mahut, who is a five-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, has spoken out against the current state of the Davis Cup after Kosmos and the International Tennis Federation recently ended their collaboration after just five years. Kosmos originally pledged to invest $3bn in the event over 25 years in what supporters said would help transform the competition. The deal was given the green light during an ITF AGM meeting in 2018 but critics said it threatened to kill the Davis Cup with the removal of home and away finals.
During a recent press conference, Mahut said he has been angered by the developments which have happened in recent years. Putting blame directly on ITF president David Haggerty, as well as vice-president Bernard Giudicelli who was also the head of the French Tennis Federation (FTT).
“We have lost four years of Davis Cup. We should never have allowed this experience. Perhaps they thought they were making a good decision, but they immediately saw that it was not working, that the idea of having a kind of World Cup could not work,” said Mahut.
“It’s a failure. It wasn’t even broadcast on the big channels in France. I’m very angry with [ITF president] Haggerty. He had the nasty idea to let us down, and now we can only wonder what will happen.’
“Also Bernard Giudicelli knows what I think of his decision as vice president of the ITF and president of the FFT. It is evident that he also bears a large part of the responsibility in this fiasco, and I see that he does not question himself. I don’t agree with his reasons that he acted responsibly for the good of tennis. No. His responsibility, as president of the French Federation, was to vote for the interests of the French Federation and its license holders.”
The remarks prompted a fiery response from Giudicelli who branded the 41-year-old tennis player as ‘ignorant.’ The Frenchman is currently the ITF’s Chair of the Development Advisors Group and sits on the Davis Cup Committee.
Speaking to Tennis Actu, Giudicelli said “it’s not a 41-year-old player who will explain to a 20- or 22-year-old player how things will have to work” and that “Mahut is good for retirement and maybe he becomes a journalist, it will give him the opportunity to make harsh criticisms, which he does quite well.”
The criticism towards Mahut hasn’t gone down well with some of France’s top tennis figures who have branded Giudicelli’s remarks as disrespectful. Mahut has played 23 Davis Cup matches since 2015, winning 16 of those.
“A great man of French tennis with a great career and an irreproachable state of mind on the one hand @nmahut, on the other a very small disrespectful, arrogant, smug, incompetent and embittered person. No, there will be no match between the two. #réformerladavis,” former French captain Arnaud Clement said.
Others to weigh in on social media include Edouard Roger Vasselin who said ‘we don’t disrespect Nicolas Mahut like that.’ French Billie Jean King Cup captain, Julien Benneteau, wrote ‘we cannot speak in these terms of a player who, beyond his record (greatest French doubles team of all time with Pierre Hugues-Herbert) always had an irreproachable state of mind.’ Finally, L’equipe tennis journalist, Quentin Moynet, commented on the matter by saying ‘it doesn’t matter if we agree with Mahut or Giudicelli, we can argue without disrespect. 20 years of career, best track record in the history of French doubles, there is a minimum of respect.’
Mahut is one of only two Frenchman to reach world No.1 in doubles or singles in the Open Era. He has won 41 ATP titles so far in his career with 37 of those being in doubles.
64-year-old Giudicelli is yet to respond to the criticism he has received following his comments about Mahut.
NOTE: All quotes in this article were originally in French and have been translated into English.
Davis Cup Round-Up: Who Has Qualified For The Finals Group Stage?
Over the weekend 12 ties took place around the world to decide which countries would qualify for the Davis Cup Finals Group Stage later this year.
Borna Coric, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Stan Wawrinka and Cameron Norrie were among those who participated in the historic team competition which began in 1900. There were plenty of highs and lows with some teams rewriting the history books for their countries.
Perhaps the biggest shock occurred at the Espoo Metro Arena where Finland stunned four-time champions Argentina 3-1. Home favorite Emil Ruusuvuori guided his team to victory by winning both of his singles matches in straight sets, as well as the doubles alongside Harri Heliovaara. It is the first time the Scandinavian country has qualified for the Finals stage.
History was also made in the South Korean capital of Seoul where the home nation came back from a 0-2 deficit to win a tie for the first time. Taking on Belgium, Korea fell behind after losing to David Goffin and Zizou Bergs on the opening day. However, they turned their fortunes around with a three-match winning streak to become the only Asian team to reach the final playoffs this year.
In one of the most anticipated clashes, Wawrinka guided Switzerland to a thrilling 3-2 win over Germany. The three-time Grand Slam champion endured a roller-coaster run after losing to Zverev in his opening match and then in the doubles alongside teammate Dominic Stricker. However, he clinched the decisive point for his team by defeating Daniel Altmaier 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Switzerland’s other two points were earned by Marc-Andrea Huesler who defeated Zverev and Oscar Otte.
There was also a close battle between France and Hungary. Tied at 2-2, Ugo Humbert sealed victory for his country by defeating Fabian Marozsan 6-3, 6-3. France has won the Davis Cup 10 times and was runner-up on nine other occasions.
Great Britain prevailed on the South American clay by defeating Colombia 3-1. After Dan Evans lost his opening match against Nicolas Mejia, the Brits bounced back with the help of two wins by Norrie and a crucial victory in the doubles. In the doubles match Evans and Neal Skupski stunned former world No.1 players Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
Also through to the finals are America, Serbia and the Netherlands who all won their ties 4-0. Meanwhile, Sweden, Croatia and the Czech Republic all won 3-1.
The 12 winning countries will join Canada, Australia, Italy and Spain in the playoffs for the finals in September. The Group Stage will be held at four different venues from 12 to 17 September. The eight best teams will then progress to the finals in Malaga which will be held from 21 to 26 November.
CROATIA defeated AUSTRIA 3-1
Borna Coric (CRO) d. Dennis Novak (AUT) 6-3 7-5
Borna Gojo (CRO) d. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3 7-6(2)
Alexander Erler/Lucas Miedler (AUT) d. Ivan Dodig/Nikola Mektic (CRO) 6-3 7-6(11)
Borna Coric (CRO) d. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 7-6(3) 6-2
FRANCE defeated HUNGARY 3-2
Zsombor Piros (HUN) d. Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 7-6(4) 6-3
Ugo Humbert (FRA) d. Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-3 6-2
Fabian Marozsan/Mate Valkusz (HUN) d. Nicolas Mahut/Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) 6-2 7-6(4)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) d. Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 7-6(6) 6-2
Ugo Humbert (FRA) d. Fabian Marozsan (HUN) 6-3 6-3
USA defeated UZBEKISTAN 4-0
Mackenzie Mcdonald (USA) d. Sergey Fomin (UZB) 64 61
Tommy Paul (USA) d. Khumoyun Sultanov (UZB) 61 76(6)
Austin Krajicek/Rajeev Ram (USA) d. Sanjar Fayziev/Sergey Fomin (UZB) 6-2 6-4
Denis Kudla (USA) d. Amir Milushev (UZB) 6-4 6-4
SWITZERLAND defeated GERMANY 3-2
Marc-Andrea Huesler (SUI) d. Oscar Otte (GER) 2-6 6-2 6-4
Alexander Zverev (GER) d. Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-4 6-1
Andreas Mies/Tim Puetz (GER) d. Dominic Stricker/Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-7(3) 6-3 6-4
Marc-Andrea Huesler (SUI) d. Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-2 7-6(4)
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) d. Daniel Altmaier (GER) 6-3 5-7 6-4
GREAT BRITAIN defeated COLOMBIA 3-1
Nicolas Mejia (COL) d. Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-2 2-6 6-4
Cameron Norrie (GBR) d. Nicolas Barrientos (COL) 6-2 7-5
Daniel Evans/Neal Skupski (GBR) d. Juan-Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah (COL) 6-4 6-4
Cameron Norrie (GBR) d. Nicolas Mejia (COL) 6-4 6-4
SERBIA defeated NORWAY 4-0
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) d. Andreja Petrovic (NOR) 6-1 6-3
Laslo Djere (SRB) d. Viktor Durasovic (NOR) 6-3 4-6 7-6(8)
Nikola Cacic/Filip Krajinovic (SRB) d. Viktor Durasovic/Herman Hoeyeraal (NOR) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Hamad Medjedovic (SRB) d. Viktor Durasovic (NOR) 6-4 6-7(4) [10-4
CHILE defeated KAZAKHSTAN 3-1
Timofei Skatov (KAZ) d. Cristian Garin (CHI) 6-1 6-3
Nicolas Jarry (CHI) d. Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-2 6-2
Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera/Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) d. Andrey Golubev/Aleksandr Nedovyesov (KAZ) 6-4 7-5
Cristian Garin (CHI) d. Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-4 3-6 6-3
KOREA, REP. defeated BELGIUM 3-2
Zizou Bergs (BEL) d. Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 1-6 6-4 7-6(6)
David Goffin (BEL) d. Hong Seong Chan (KOR) 6-4 6-2
Nam Jisung/Song Min-kyu (KOR) d. Sander Gille/Joran Vliegen (BEL) 7-6(3) 7-6(5)
Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) d. David Goffin (BEL) 3-6 6-1 6-3
Hong Seong Chan (KOR) d. Zizou Bergs (BEL) 6-3 7-6(4)
SWEDEN defeated BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 3-1
Mikael Ymer (SWE) d. Mirza Basic (BIH) 6-4 7-5
Elias Ymer (SWE) d. Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-1 6-4
Mirza Basic/Tomislav Brkic (BIH) d. Andre Goransson/Elias Ymer (SWE) 6-4 6-2
Mikael Ymer (SWE) d. Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-1 1-6 6-3
NETHERLANDS defeated SLOVAKIA 4-0
Tallon Griekspoor (NED) d. Lukas Klein (SVK) 7-6(6) 2-6 6-4
Tim Van Rijthoven (NED) d. Alex Molcan (SVK) 7-6(6) 5-7 6-3
Wesley Koolhof/Matwe Middelkoop (NED) d. Lukas Klein/Alex Molcan (SVK) 6-3 6-3
Matwe Middelkoop (NED) d. Jozef Kovalik (SVK) 6-4 6-4
FINLAND defeated ARGENTINA 3-1
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) d. Pedro Cachin (ARG) 7-5 6-3
Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) d. Otto Virtanen (FIN) 6-3 3-6 7-6(3)
Harri Heliovaara/Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) d. Maximo Gonzalez/Andres Molteni (ARG) 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) d. Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 7-5 6-1
CZECH REPUBLIC defeated PORTUGAL 3-1
Jiri Lehecka (CZE) d. Nuno Borges (POR) 6-4 6-4
Tomas Machac (CZE) d. Joao Sousa (POR) 7-6(6) 3-6 6-2
Nuno Borges/Francisco Cabral (POR) d. Tomas Machac/Adam Pavlasek (CZE) 7-5 7-6(4)
Joao Sousa (POR) v Jiri Lehecka (CZE) 6-4 6-1
Davis Cup In Danger After Kosmos Ends Partnership
The 25-year $3bn deal in place to protect the team event is coming to an end. It remains to be seen what happens next.
The future of the Davis Cup has been thrown into jeopardy following the departure of investment company Kosmos after they reportedly failed to reach a financial agreement with the International Tennis Federation.
Rumours of the partnership breaking up started to surface on social media on Thursday but Ubitennis has since been able to confirm that this is true through a national tennis federation source. According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, Kosmos’ exit from the Davis Cup occurred after they failed to reach an agreement with the ITF concerning the $40M fee per year.
The development is a massive blow for the ITF who originally signed a 25-year deal with Kosmos worth in the region of $3bn back in 2018 after their AGM voted in favour of making changes to the event. Something that prompted a substantial divide in the sport with critics accusing them of trying to destroy the historic team competition which has been in existence since 1900. Under the agreement, Kosmos took sole responsibility for the Davis Cup and its format.
During recent interviews with Ubitennis over the past three months, the CEO of Kosmos, Enrique Rojas, claimed the organization had desires to make the Davis Cup as prominent as a Grand Slam and said in a separate interview that he wanted to use ‘global ambassadors’ to promote the event.
The timeframe of the negotiations has not been made public and therefore it is unclear when Kosmos officially ended their collaboration.
One of the first officials to react to the development was Dirk Hordotff from the German Tennis Federation who agreed with Ubitennis for his remarks to be published. Hordorff is the current coach of Ricardas Berankis and has previously worked with former world No.5 Rainer Schuettler for 20 years.
“Time to review and heal this nonsense,” he said.
‘Bring back home and away ties which makes the Davis Cup so unique.’
“Solve the key issues of the problem: no short notice for organizations of the ties and have a minimum preparation for each event of one year. Don’t play the final every year and don’t play (the event) in Olympic years. The best thing during an Olympic year would be to have a team event at the Olympics.”
There is yet to be an official statement from either the ITF or Kosmos. However, an ITF spokesperson has confirmed to the AFP news Agency that the partnership is ‘ending in its fifth year.’ It is understood that this year’s Davis Cup will continue under the sole control of the ITF but it remains to be seen what happens to the future of the event.
As for Kosmos, they will still stay involved in tennis in some capacity. Earlier this month they announced the signings of Elina Svitolina, Borna Coric and Andrey Rublev to their management branch.
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