Questions Over New Davis Cup Format

In the final week of the 2019 tennis season, we saw the first edition of the revamped Davis Cup won by host nation Spain, led by the efforts of World Number 1 Rafael Nadal, with Nadal clinching the final victory over Canada’s Dennis Shapovalov 6-3 7-6. Despite the home crowd’s jubilation at the final result, many tennis fans (and players) were far less pleased with the new format of the competition.

The first question raised was that of the involvement of a footballer, Gerard Pique, in the affairs of the tennis world. Pique provided the financial and material backing for the event and without him, the changes to the 119-year-old tournament would not have happened. Pique also criticised the absence of 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in a move which proved to be unsurprisingly unpopular. Federer is 38 and has to consider his scheduling carefully and regardless of whether Federer wanted to play or not, his nation Switzerland did not qualify, so his involvement would not have been possible anyway.

The issue of venue was also raised, with many lamenting the fact that the atmosphere of a home Davis Cup tie would be missing from many of the matches not involving Spain. This was true for many of the sessions which were far from selling out, something which rarely happened in the old format. For fans from nations like Kazakhstan and Australia, getting to the venue could prove extremely difficult and costly for fans. Before, fans could simply wait until a tie was held at home and would be much more able and likely to attend.

The final, and potentially most critical issue was the lack of publicity for the tournament. Most big names apart from Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic were missing having elected not to play because of end of season fatigue or an objection to the changes. The tournament was not publicised anywhere in the weeks or months leading up to the tournament and was only available on an online streaming service run by Pique’s company in many countries. This left many unaware that the tournament was even happening and those that were, were often unable to watch.

Despite this, a lot of the tennis was still very good to watch (for the few that did) and there is certainly potential for the tournament to work if it backed by those in the game. However, it needs to be made as widely available as tournaments like the World Tour Finals and Wimbledon and those in charge must learn more about the tennis world to avoid blunders such as the incident with Roger Federer this week.

Written by Emre Saridogan

Please note, this is the last report of the year.  Emre will be back in 2020!