I was contacted today by a high-profile coach who works on the men’s tour.
He had read my post below on Davis Cup and was very supportive of my position. At the end of our call, he asked me a very interesting question.
How did I think that the ITF should have dealt with the Kosmos approach on Davis Cup?
It was a good question and this is what I told him in response:
Recognising that the Davis Cup needed changing and, in an effort to get better player participation and to generate more income, the ITF should have first decided, in conjunction with the top players, on 3 or 4 acceptable formats for Davis Cup that respected important elements from the tennis side.
What things should have been considered?:
-The tradition of the competition
– The importance of home and away to the spirit of the competition.
– The views of the current top players and what is necessary to get them to commit more often.
– The views of the former top players and Davis Cup champions.
-The National Federations’ interests
-The intangible tennis elements such as the impact of participation through the organisation and promotion of top tennis in so many nations that otherwise will have no top tennis taking place nationally.
Other non-tennis factors would also need to be considered such as:
– Current sponsors and TV views and requirements
– The economic impact in the cities where the World Group is currently played.
Once there were 3 or 4 formats that were acceptable from the tennis perspective and that the players supported, then the ITF could then have invited prospective sponsors and companies like Kosmos to bid to buy the rights to run the competition under one of those formats. Formats not within those “tennis formats” would not be considered. Quite simple really. The format would be driven by tennis!
The format that was approved in Orlando and that will be used in 2020, an event played over 7 days in November with 18 teams including 2 wild card
entries, is not a format that had ever been considered by the ITF and its Davis Cup Committee. It was not close to being on the ITF radar in terms of formats. The first time such a format came to light was when it was put forward last February by a group headed by non-tennis people, Kosmos, together with a huge financial incentive for the ITF to accept it.
The bottom line is that the Davis Cup was changed to this extreme format not because it is a great tennis format but purely for money reasons.
Let me pose a question. Does anyone think that any of the Grand Slams would have given up a week of their event to be used for another event and run the tournament with a drastically changed format simply for double the money. NO WAY!
The ITF and Kosmos are assuming that those weeks in April and September, currently protected weeks for World Group and valued at 10 million + belong
to them. But they do not. These weeks belong to no one. My fear is that the ATP will probably look to schedule events in those weeks (maybe have two more 10 day ATP 1000 events similar to Indian Wells and Miami) in competition to the new Kosmos events.
I see many tennis downsides of the new Davis Cup format, including reducing the off season for 80+ top make players by 3 weeks. In addition, what happens to Group 1 and 2 and player commitment at that level when there are other men’s events in the same week? Will a player like Casper Ruud from Norway chose to play Davis Cup group 2 in April or play at another ranking event that week?
If all of the financial promises work out, in the short term there will be more money for the ITF and its member nations but in the long term I see pitfalls from which there seems no way back, if it goes wrong.
Maybe I am missing something…. and I genuinely hope that I am wrong……but I see big trouble ahead!