Monday, 3 September 2018

The new Davis Cup

As I watched 2018 US Open I cannot be more pleased with the rise of young Canadian players Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Denis Shapovalov. Despite the retirement of Daniel Nestor from competition, Canada has other players in the wings that can eventually, and very soon, be real contenders to win the Davis Cup. Milos Raonic, is still a pillar of  team Canada, and Vasek Pospisil the doubles Wimbledon Champion is our go to doubles player. However , as a former Tennis Canada Board of Director in my view there is a cloud over the World Cup of Tennis.

The  Davis Cup will see major changes to the competition. Beginning in 2019, 24 nations will compete in a home-or-away qualifying round in February, with the 12 winners advancing to the final tournament. Joining the qualified teams will be the four semifinalists from the previous year, plus two wild-card teams, who need to be in either the top 50 of the Davis Cup rankings or have a top-10 singles player to be eligible.

As a long time tennis enthusiast and administrator, I find that these changes will be detrimental to the development of the game. There is no doubt that the playing season has become too long and put the top players at greater risk of injuries. However changing the format of the Davis Cup, but adding two new events like the Laver Cup and the NextGen event goes contrary to the argument of too long a season.

The format that has been used for 117 years gave smaller nations the opportunity to stage an event with the best players of the world involved.. It provided the opportunity for tennis fans to watch their national players at home in a small venue, Who can forget the final rubber in Edmonton when Andrew Sznajder took the newly crowned French Open Champion, Andres Gomez of Ecuador, to fifth set? How about the inspiring defeat of world number one Stephan Edberg, by a young Daniel Nestor in Vancouver? These performances are etched in our memory and helped to create a new generation of players. Under the new format, it is unlikely that Canadians in towns like Halifax, Vancouver or Calgary, will be able to see a Davis Cup tie between Raonic/Shapovalov against Federer/Wawrinka on Canadian soil surrounded by a sea of Maple Leaf Flags.

The new format will cause two things to happen. Smaller nations with no large facilities will never stage the Davis Cup. The event will be staged only by countries with large facilities and be a money grab like the Olympics.

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