After the conclusion of another hectic Davis Cup Quarter-Final weekend, there are more questions than answers in regards to the future of the coveted, historic tournament as many ask for considerable changes and reformations to the format.
One of the biggest criticisms given to the 117-year-old tennis team event is its inability to encourage the best players in the world to take part on a consistent basis. During the Davis Cup Quarter-Finals, Serbia played Spain in one of the four World Group ties, and Rafael Nadal was absent, while Andy Murray also chose to prolong his return to the tour because of an elbow injury. Murray had previously missed the Davis Cup tie in Canada in February, so the major issue has been giving the elite players the incentive to work their schedule around the Davis Cup rather than the team event being a simple afterthought to many of the players.
Many have suggested that, perhaps, shortening the singles rubbers to Best-of-three matches and leaving the middle Saturday doubles rubber alone is the best course of action in the near future, but will that really solve the underlying problems to Davis Cup? It is a gruelling ATP schedule throughout the whole season, but are we really confident in saying that simply shortening the format will be enough of a change for the likes of Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Nadal and Roger Federer to find time for it? I am not entirely in agreement with it. I think the Davis Cup is a beautiful event, but like any and many ATP and ITF events, there is room for improvement and scope for progress, but I feel that lies with the scheduling and not the format. The format, in my opinion, should remain untouched.
The reason why I feel that the scheduling is where reformations need to be made is because by changing the position in the calendar of Davis Cup, but maintaining the core foundations of the format, the tournament will not lose credibility or value in doing so. A suggestion would be either extending a Davis Cup tournament spanning two years rather than the one. In doing so, it makes the tournament even more lucrative, just like we see in the FIFA World Cup that is held every four years. In my view, looking at playing the Davis Cup over a longer period actually enhances the event considerably, whereas I think making drastic changes to the format can downgrade the event and not necessarily encourage the big players to persistently participate in Davis Cup.
Staying on the topic of improving the placement of Davis Cup’s schedule, it is rather unfortunate that most of the important ties are played after a Grand Slam event. The first round takes place after the Australian Open in Melbourne, the semi-finals is placed after the US Open and then the final is at the end of the tennis calendar. Most of the time we see the best players committing to the Davis Cup final, but the issue lies where the top players want and have a desire to play throughout the whole season for their country. I mean, come on, surely playing for your country should be a privilege after all?
Some loyal Davis Cup tennis fans may feel that by losing the Big 4 it gives other lesser-known players the opportunity to shine on a big stage – a stage they would not necessarily ever foresee themselves being on, which is tremendous for the careers of some players. But, for the Davis Cup to sit side-by-side with the greatest tennis events and for it to continue to be branded as the ‘World Cup of Tennis’ it really has to make a big call and a big decision that reaffirms its place as one of the greatest and historical international team tennis event in sport.