Laver Cup, Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Ryder Cup— Even Stanley: All the cups can live together in the cupboard without fans getting cup-bored.
When I think of Laver Cup, one word comes to mind: Style.
When I think of Davis Cup, one word comes to mind: Grind.
During the American telecast of Davis Cup last weekend, after Croatia advanced to take on France in the Final, Steve Weissman commented that it would be “tennis’ version of the World Cup”— a reference to the thrilling soccer of summer, where those two countries clashed in the final of a brilliant tournament.
“Tennis’ version of World Cup”– minus a few things, Steve: Millions upon millions of fans, billions of dollars in revenue, excitement enough to blow the tops off stadiums and the most important element of all: Anticipation.
The entire issue can be summed up like this— less is more.
Full Disclosure: I’m an American with that point of view. I don’t watch much Davis Cup or Fed Cup. Why? Despite being a tennis journalist and huge fan the fuzzy ball, last weekend I was tweaking my NFL Fantasy Team and gorging on football. I was watching my baseball team prepare for October. And I was reading all about golf’s Ryder Cup intrigue.
I caught a little of the match between Francis Tiafoe and Borna Coric, but that’s about it. Harsh truth: In my world there are dozens of more exciting and enticing things than Davis Cup tennis.
But the ITF had to make innovations. Why?
The old format is a broken, complicated system spread out over four weekends.
Davis Cup has been competing with other sports and the smartphone for fans’ attention.
It had trouble drawing top players who are dog-tired from an already-too-long and brutal tennis season.
The Laver Cup was threatening to steal its luster.
Following the formula of less-is-more, the Laver Cup is a once-yearly, one-weekend event with beautiful optics, a simple format and star power. Seeing Federer paired with Nadal on the doubles court was a treat beyond almost anything I saw in tennis last year. I was completely drawn in— so much so that I’ve hopped a plane to Chicago to see what’s in store this year.
Which brings me to my Davis Cup solution: Do it once every 2 years.
Keep the home ties, keep the charm. But simply do it less.
The Ryder Cup, the World Cup and the Olympics all benefit from a slumber. It allows fans to get excited. Anticipation and excitement build. There’s drama. There’s intrigue. It feels new. It’s a pleasure to watch.
An even more creative solution might be to alternate Davis Cup and Laver Cup, the way Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup do it.
Give fans a break. Give players a break. Let everyone love you and miss you, Davis Cup. And keep the charm of home.