What Do You Do With Davis Cup?
Is there a problem with Davis Cup?
If you ask some people, the answer is an emphatic “YES.”
Many have raised objections over the competition’s annual structure, arguing that the prestige of the event is diminished because a new winner is crowned each year. Compared to an event like the World Cup, which is only held every four years, players have far less incentive to play, knowing there will always be a new opportunity around the corner.
Davis Cup is also criticized for taking place over four weekends throughout the year. The potential for inconsistent rosters is high, and injury between rounds can dramatically alter the outcome of future ties. Some have suggested that the event be held over a two week period.
Lastly, the inconsistent appearance of the game’s stars has many calling for reform to Davis Cup’s format. Fans are naturally attached to individual stars in an individual sport, and are upset that the top players aren’t showing up for every tie.
In a stark departure from your standard “Davis Cup format editorial,” I am going to instead play devil’s advocate, explain why I think Davis Cup is fine the way it is and why it should remain the same.
Davis Cup is held every year. So what?
Every single tournament that we watch each and every week is held each and every year. Relative to the World Cup, Davis Cup appears as if it’s held too often. But there’s no need for tennis to compare itself to soccer. Davis Cup is never going to be the World Cup, and there’s no reason why we should attempt to homogenize the two events.
The occurrence of Davis Cup is truly over-analyzed. Wimbledon is held every year, and that doesn’t make it less prestigious; it’s prestigious for the notoriety and tradition that surrounds the event. The World Cup isn’t as prestigious as it is because it is held every four years. It’s prestigious because it’s known as the premier soccer event in the world.
I’m not going to sit here and argue that Davis Cup wouldn’t be more exciting if it were only held every four years. I concede that it would, but anyone who thinks Davis Cup would suddenly attain a World Cup level of entertainment by mimicking its frequency is sadly mistaken.
At the end of the day, hardcore tennis fans are excited about Davis Cup from one year to the next. If I have the option of more tennis as opposed to less tennis, I’m going to go with more tennis.
The most legitimate complaint surrounding Davis Cup is that it is held over four weekends throughout the year. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good time for a two-week event during the season.
We already have four Grand Slam tournaments within the first nine months of the year; by that point, players really start running on empty. It doesn’t seem logical to place another two-week event, one that would ostensibly occur at the end of the season, where players are physically declining and can’t put forth their best performances.
The only other time that I could see a two week Davis Cup event taking place is at the beginning of April, after Indian Wells and Miami and before the significant portion of the clay court stretch leading into the French Open.
But even this would be a vast stretch.
The final argument against Davis Cup that is how the best in the game rarely play at the same time. Case in point, neither Roger Federer nor Stan Wawrinka will be playing in Switzerland’s opening tie against Belgium.
It’s crucial to realize that though tennis is an individual sport, Davis Cup is, ultimately, a team event. While spectators would still like to see the stars play, not every top player is going to play the competition every year.
And that’s okay.
Davis Cup is not great because Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic play every round. It’s great because fans get to rally around their country’s team and the players themselves get to play for their countries and their fans directly.
Last year, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka didn’t win Davis Cup. Switzerland won Davis Cup.
Davis Cup is also great time for lesser known players to shine. Radek Stepanek and Viktor Troicki will probably never win a Grand Slam, or even a Masters Series 1000 event. But each can say they won a fifth rubber in a Davis Cup final.
That’s something nobody can ever take away from them.
One last aspect of Davis Cup that I really enjoy is that doubles is guaranteed a spotlight each and every year. If Davis Cup was only played every four years – or if each team was stacked with only the best in the game – doubles specialists would surely find themselves bumped when push came to shove.
Davis Cup doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon, and I for one will not be raising my hand to complain.
What do you think of Davis Cup? What would you change, if anything? Sound off in the comments!
Quite right. And as for holding it in a two week period it is interesting to note that the Federation/Fed Cup used to be run that way and they changed it to resemble the Davis Cup. Which suggests that the Davis Cup is doing something right.
The main reason the current Davis Cup format is challenged is lack of consistent participation by top players. This then also drives lack of interest in the Cup outside the die-hard fans of the game and possibly the audiences in the respective country.
I think the main reason top players cannot commit consistently is due to scheduling both in terms of calendar and location. Davis Cup has spread out scheduling that isn’t actively coordinated with other ATP tournaments. The match has to be played in one of the participating countries, meaning the matches could be scheduled far away from the next (or previous) main ATP tournament. CAN-JPN this weekend could have been scheduled in JPN, for example. Luckily it was CAN’s turn to host the game. The hosting country also can choose the surface. So it doesn’t matter if you are a week away from Wimbledon or IW, you may have to play on clay since that’s what Italy thinks is best for its team.
On the other hand, the only main incentive to play seems to be eligibility for Olympics. This drives up participation in the 2 years before the Olympic year. Sure, national pride and support is an incentive but usually practical considerations will matter more to most players.
If ITF cannot find a suitable contiguous 2 week period in a year to host the entire cup, then how about adding more rules around surface and location? For example, for rubbers scheduled near IW/Miami swing should be played on HCs. And hosting rules could be changed to allow ability to host near USA, for example.
Mainly, if ITF really cares about boosting participation of top players and, in turn, viewership of Davis Cup, they should talk to the players, get feedback and see what they can do. It is of-course possible that ITF is happy with the current state of the Cup. There were multiple nail-biter finished today. There was a good story coming out for SUI, even though Fed and Stan didnt play. So, maybe this is what ITF wants. Does the media know why top players are choosing to skip? Are the concrete reasons out known?
At least one good thing Davis Cup does is award ranking points. Fed Cup doesnt even do THAT. *smh*
*Are the concrete reasons for their withdrawal known?