EXCLUSIVE: Davis Cup Chiefs Want To Make Event As Prominent As A Grand Slam
With the Davis Cup about to kick off, Enric Rojas, CEO of Kosmos unveils his ambitions in an exclusive interview with Ubitennis
By Federico Bertelli
The tennis season is blasting its last fireworks. After the Next Gen Finals, the ATP finals in Turin have been grabbing the headlines. However, the focus switches to the Final 8 of Davis Cup which will be starting on November 22nd in Malaga.
Just a few months ago Ubitennis had a chat with Alberto Costa, Tournament Director of the Davis Cup. Now, we have had an exclusive interview with Enric Rojas, CEO of Kosmos Tennis. The Organization was founded by Gerard Piqué who acquired Davis Cup rights from the ITF in 2018. We look into the present and future perspectives of the Davis Cup, as well as the newly created partnership between ATP, ITF and Kosmos.
UBITENNIS: First of all, I would like to talk about this news that quite caught everyone by surprise, the partnership between Kosmos, ITF and ATP. What are the scopes, the range and the time horizon of this collaboration?
ROJAS: We have been working on this agreement for several months. It’s going to unite the different actors and establish some cornerstones we will be able to build on. First of all, the fact that the ATP has consolidated and protected the weeks dedicated to Davis Cup (at the beginning of February, mid-September and at the end of November). A strategy that has been agreed on listening to the players as well.
Starting from 2019 the format has undergone several changes to try not to disrupt the plans of the players and to reach the maximum coverage and attendance in the various rounds. Players can plan their season already at the beginning of the year and there are management and promotional synergies that we want to exploit. For example, Kosmos now sells the rights to Davis and ATP does the same with the Finals and the various Masters 1000, so we are trying to figure out the best way we can work together. Personally, I believe that there are certainly possible developments. Important aspects to be taken into account are betting and data as well. We definitely want to talk to ATP and IMG to see which strategies are to be implemented and with whom we are going to implement the vision we will define.
With regard to the OTT (an acronym that stands for over-the-top and that indicates streaming services via IP released from traditional streaming platforms, such as the well-known DAZN, Ed.) it is certainly something we have in mind, but not in the medium term. In some territories, we may think, in the more distant future, about a coexistence between traditional media and direct distribution. But in any case, we are not worried because we do not have uncovered markets and the coverage of the event is already global. At the organizational level, partnering with ATP has meant that on the main board the 6 seats are divided equally: 2 ATP, 2 Kosmos and 2 ITF. However, as we continue with the collaboration, other specific aspects will also be defined. ITF and Kosmos already had a consolidated system, in which we included ATP. The ATP will have its say in many dossiers: for example, if there are calendar changes or different options on the Final 8, the ATP and its players will be able to express their views. Kosmos will maintain leadership on operational and commercial issues.
UBITENNIS: If I understand correctly then the choice of the new venue for the Final 8 of Davis (Malaga has been selected to host the 2023 and 2024 editions) will be shared between the various places and could be in Europe or elsewhere.
ROJAS: Yes, that’s right. At the beginning of 2023, we will start the selection process and it will be open to anyone, so we hope to have as many options as possible to evaluate. Many elements will be involved: the commercial aspect, a sports perspective… and a very important element will be where the Finals will be played. Holding Davis Cup Final 8 in a place close to where the ATP Finals are played is obviously a preferential element.
UBITENNIS: In terms of the impact of the event and attractiveness of rights, how do you consider yourself today? At the level of an ATP Masters 1000? And compared to a Slam how do you position yourself? For instance, the Australian Open sold the rights of the event to Down Under broadcasters alone for about $50 million.
ROJAS: The data are correct; our ambition is to position ourselves approximately at the level of a Grand Slam. The reality, however, is that from all points of view (viewers, sponsors, television rights …) we are around the level of an ATP Masters 1000. As a starting point, it is already a good result from our point of view, but our long-term ambition is to rise even higher.
In our business plan, the goal is sooner or later to reach the prestige of a Slam. And it is essential that the event has the typical Davis Cup atmosphere. I’ll give you some numbers: the first match of the Final 8, Australia Netherlands will have a 70/75% full stadium (which means 6000 spectators: in 2019 in Madrid it was difficult to go beyond 3000 spectators when the Spanish team wasn’t playing). And for a great match like Italy vs USA, which unfortunately is played at 10 am on a weekday, we expect to have at least 7000 spectators, and there will be less than 20% of unsold tickets. Having two months to promote the event has been crucial.
UBITENNIS: Let’s move on to the sports aspects: Davis Cup is scheduled after the US Open and after the indoor tournaments at the end of the season. Does this mean that the September round and the November Finals will always be played on fast surfaces and likely indoors? Is the idea that there could be Davis Finals on clay or grass to be discarded?
ROJAS: This new agreement and calendar allow to have group stages and Finals practically anywhere in the world; in September every option is basically possible: North America after the US Open, Asia before the swing in the East which sooner or later, once COVID is over, will be resumed, or go to Europe where the indoor season begins. For the moment, the group stages and the Final 8 are to be played in the same conditions and on the same surface. We are not obliged to, but our idea is that everything ought to be homogeneous, to provide homogeneous logistics (between the various group stages in September) and scheduling (between the group stage in September and the Final 8 in November). In addition, playing indoors is simpler in terms of organization as it becomes possible to play at any latitude, without hindrance. Moreover, considering that the ATP Finals have been consolidated as an indoor event for several years, maintaining a consistency between Finals and Davis Cup is also an advantage for players, who are known to suffer from surface changes, both technically and physically. To sum up, currently, we have two fixed points: the same surface both for the September group stage and for the Final 8 in November, in indoor conditions. In order not to change the cards on the table with the ATP Finals.
UBITENNIS: Which is the process of deciding the surface? In a recent post-match interview in Vienna Taylor Fritz had complained about the condition of Davis Cup courts, which despite being indoor was very slow. Did you make this choice especially to compensate for the fact that indoor conditions are faster?
ROJAS: No, we have not had this kind of approach. It is true that there have been some comments in this sense, on the courts being slow, but it was not specifically planned. We tried to maintain similar conditions to those in Malaga and Madrid even in September (although there will inevitably be differences since Madrid is at a high altitude whereas Malaga is at sea level, with the sports hall a few hundred meters from the beach, with greater humidity, Ed). The combination of courts and balls impacts the conditions too.
UBITENNIS: We have taken a look to the future: but to conclude, what’s your opinion about this 2022 edition that has seen important innovations? Are you satisfied with how it has gone so far?
ROJAS: Definitely: in the group stage in September we had a total turnout of over 110,000 spectators in the 4 cities, an excellent result; already higher than the total turnout of the Final 8 of 2019 and 2021. And considering how the tickets for the Final 8 are selling, we believe that we can reach a total of over 170,000 total spectators. In the group stage, of course, having a team playing at home is a driving factor. However, this aspect is proving to be less relevant for the Final 8, which means that the event is starting to take off. We have seen from the sales data that among ticket buyers the Dutch are in the lead, followed by Italians and British (obviously many had bet in advance on the qualification of Norrie and his teammates).
Another relevant figure will be that of the television and social media audience after Malaga, but if we compare the 2022 group stage with 2021, we have doubled the attendance, this means that we are heading in the right direction ; I can also give you a further preview: in the week of Malaga, we are going to have a meeting between Kosmos and the federations that organized the group stages to understand what we can improve to generate interest between September and December. Speaking of federations, Italy and Holland gave us a big hand by buying ticket packages for their members and it was a consistent support in terms of sales. Going into detail, to this day more than 55% of tickets have been sold to fans who are outside the Malaga region (outside Andalucia) and 21% will come from outside Spain, another sign that makes us believe that we are on the right track towards a renewed interest of the public.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
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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