The major reform project of the Davis Cup, which radically cleaves the world of tennis, is put to the vote Thursday in Orlando (Florida).
The major reform project of the Davis Cup, which radically cleaves the world of tennis, is put to the vote Thursday in Orlando (Florida) between supporters of a shortened tournament and more lucrative and followers of a century-old format shunned by the stars.
The poll, which will open the last day of the General Assembly of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), is expected between 9am and 9.30am local (13h and 13h30 GMT).
The majority of two-thirds of the votes is required to validate the project defended by the boss of the ITF which aims to deeply reform the mythical international competition created in 1900.
144 federations invited to vote
Some 144 national federations are invited to vote, some representing Australia, Great Britain, the United States, France and Germany, with more weight than the others.
If the reform were adopted, the centennial competition, spread over four three-day weekends, would now be contested during a shortened final phase to a week between 18 teams, in November, to end the season. The event would be centralized on neutral ground and banned the famous matches in five sets.
In an interview with AFP, ITF President David Haggerty is “optimistic” about the adoption of the reform: “Many nations, not only in Europe but around the world, support the reform”, he said.
Passion and money
This is the case of France: “On the one hand, there is the passion a little coardry and on the other side, a rational analysis based on sporting and economic criteria,” says its president Bernard Giudicelli.
The financial criterion is a strong argument for the ITF. The body has signed a lucrative partnership with the investment group Kosmos, chaired by the Barcelona footballer Gerard Piqué who should be present in Orlando: three billion dollars (2.5 billion euros) over 25 years, twenty Millions of dollars (€ 17 million) annually guaranteed to players, and even more to the federations, are at stake.
On the sports side, the one-week condensed format aims to seduce the big names in tennis, who tend to sulk the event once they win it.
The former world number one Novak Djokovic is part of it: he who judged in the spring the new project “fantastic” has reiterated its approval last week. Roger Federer conceded to him that “the Davis Cup had to do something”, without going forward on the proposal in question.
These voices are, like those of the three Grand Slam tournaments -Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open- who have lent their support to the project. The Australian Open did not do it.
Because it is in Australia that the detractors are the most virulent. The Federation is indeed a partner of the ATP – organizer of the professional men’s circuit – for the holding of its World Team Cup, a team competition played in January at the dawn of the season and whose return from 2020 was formalized at the beginning of July.
“A financial transaction”
No wonder, then, that Tennis Australia is stepping up against the new format, which would compete with the ATP World Cup. The proposed formula “removes from the Davis Cup everything that makes it a unique and special event,” complains the body in a letter to the ITF.
“You can not call it the Davis Cup. (…) It’s a financial transaction, “says Lleyton Hewitt, former world N.1.
“The games that I played for Australia, at home and away, are among my most precious tennis memories,” added legend Rod Laver.
In France, the champions of the event are also skeptical. “We can not consider playing a Davis Cup in late November, three weeks after the end of the season. Otherwise, we can not have a rest period, “says Lucas Pouille. “They sold the soul of a historic event,” Despots Captain Yannick Noah.
On Wednesday evening, the British Federation announced that it would vote against the proposed reform, fearing that it would deter even more players to take part in it and that therefore decreases the attractiveness of this competition with fans .