EXCLUSIVE: Davis Cup Chiefs Want To Make Event As Prominent As A Grand Slam - UBITENNIS
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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

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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

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Emma Raducanu Draws Inspiration From Andy Murray Ahead Of 2023

Emma Raducanu spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career.

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Emma Raducanu has spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career and is optimistic about turning her form in 2023.

 

The former US Open hasn’t had too bad of an off-season after receiving her MBE for her services to sport.

Raducanu made history in 2021 as she won the US Open as a qualifier at 18 years of age.

However the Brit has yet to back that up with Raducanu changing coach on a number of occasions as she looks for some stability in 2023.

Speaking in a recent interview with Grazia Raducanu said that she believes that momentum can change quickly in tennis and that confidence is the key to success, “[In tennis] it could look like it’s all going down, down, down and just not getting any better,” Raducanu was quoted by tennishead as saying.

“Just one match can have a big influence on your confidence and once you have confidence and the momentum comes, you feel like you can’t lose. It’s a very individual sport – people are friendly but it’s difficult to be really close with those you’re competing with.”

One player that can relate to what Raducanu is saying is Andy Murray with confidence being a key theme of the highs and lows of Murray’s career.

Raducanu said that she talks to Murray regularly about the highs and lows of tennis, “Andy Murray is so good to talk to because he’s been through pretty much what I’ve been going through,” Raducanu said.

“I have always looked up to him and watched him winning his first Wimbledon and the Olympics.”

Raducanu will hope that she can use Murray’s words as inspiration for next season as she currently sits at 75 in the world.

The Brit will start her season in 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand on the 2nd of January.

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Fernando Verdasco Given Two Month Doping Ban

Fernando Verdasco has been banned from tennis until the 8th of January.

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Fernando Verdasco (@UniversTennis - Twitter)

Fernando Verdasco will miss the first week of the 2023 season after being provisionally suspended for two months after testing positive for the drug methylphenidate.

 

The former world number seven tested positive for the drug at the Challenger event in Rio De Janeiro and has accepted a voluntary ban until the 8th of January.

As well as testing positive for the drug methylphenidate, Verdasco had also forgot to renew his Therapeutic Use Exemption despite the Spaniard admitting that he was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

In a statement published today the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), explained why his ban has been shortened from two years to two months, “The ITIA accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” they said in a statement on his website.

“In the specific circumstances of this case, based on the player’s degree of fault the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme allows for the applicable period of ineligibility to be reduced from two years to two months.”

The 39 year-old will as a result miss the first week of the new season with the Spaniard being currently ranked at world number 125.

In 2022, Verdasco’s best results on the ATP tour were quarter-final performances in Buenos Aires and Estoril while he also won a challenger title in Monterrey in March.

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Canada Thumps Australia To Win Historic Davis Cup Title 

The dream of the North American team has finally become a reality.

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MALAGA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 27: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2022 at Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena on November 27, 2022 in Malaga, Spain. (Photo by Silvestre Szpylma / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

109 years after making their Davis Cup debut, Canada has finally claimed the trophy after producing two clinical wins over Australia in the final on Sunday. 

 

The duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix-Auger Aliassime both shined in their matches to give the North American nation an unassible 2-0 lead in the three-match tie. It is the first time Canada has won the title with 2022 being only the second time they have reached the final. Three years ago they missed out on the title to Spain. 

“The emotions are tough to describe,” said Auger-Aliassime. “All of us here, we’ve dreamt of this. All of these guys grew up together dreaming of this moment, dreaming of winning the Davis Cup. It’s a great moment for me and my country…. I am happy we were able to get our first Davis Cup with this group.”

Shapovalov kicked-off the final with a 90-minute 6-2, 6-4, win over Thanasi Kokkinakis who also lost his semi-final match against Borna Coric. The world No.18 blasted 28 winners past his opponent and broke him four times in the match. Besides handing Canada the crucial lead, it was a much-needed confidence boost for Shapovalov who earlier in the week lost to Lorenzo Sonego and Jan-Lennard Struff. 

“I’m very happy with my performance today,” said Shapovalov. “I had a long one against Sonego yesterday and was struggling with my back a little bit. So huge credit to the medical staff for putting me back in shape. There were a lot of doubts if I’d be ready to play today. It was amazing to play pain-free today.”

Closing in on the title, Felix Auger-Aliassime secured victory for his country with a 6-3, 6-4, triumph over world No.24 Alex de Minaur. Producing a total of six aces and saving all eight break points he faced. 

Canada’s run to their first title occurred with a bit of luck on their side. Originally they were eliminated from the finals after losing to the Netherlands at the start of this year. However, they received a wildcard to play in the group stages following the removal of Russia from the competition. Russia and Belarus are currently suspended from team events due to the war in Ukraine. 

In Group B they scored wins over South Korea and Spain to secure a place in the finale this week. Before dismissing Australia, they beat Italy 2-1 in the semi-finals and Germany 2-1 in the quarter-finals. 

“From juniors it was our dream, growing up watching Vasek (Pospisil), Milos (Raonic), and [Daniel Nestor] taking Canada to new [heights],” Shapovalov said. “We wanted to grow up and help the country win the first title. It’s so surreal right now. After we lost in the final in 2019, we really wanted this bad. It’s such a team effort; everyone was putting in 120 percent every day.”

Canada’s team captain is former player Frank Dancevic who has held the role since 2017. 

 “This is a historic moment,” Dancevic commented on the achievement. “We’ve never won this title in the past. It’s the first time for us. It’s an incredible feeling.”

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