As tennis federations around the world get set to vote on radical changes to the Davis Cup format in the ITF’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday in Orlando, several top players on the WTA circuit are surprised Fed Cup hasn’t been included in such grand plans from the start. Some are also relieved.
A sum of $3 billion is being promised over the next 25 years by investment group Kosmos, founded by Spain and Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique, and a complete overhaul of the 118-year competition looks set to take place.
The proposed plan will see the Davis Cup’s existing problematic format, stretched across the calendar year and played in all corners of the globe, condensed into a season-ending 18-nation event played at a single, neutral venue.
Around 120 delegates at the AGM will decide whether proposals by federation chief David Haggerty are to be given the go-ahead.
And while Haggerty has mentioned in the past that the ITF will start with the Davis Cup then turn its attention to its women’s equivalent, little to nothing has been said of the Fed Cup since discussions arose of such huge investments and changes.
World No. 5 Caroline Garcia feels the women are being treated like an afterthought.
“I think it’s weird that they are talking only about Davis Cup and they’re not talking at all about Fed Cup because at the end it’s kind of the same issue,” said the Frenchwoman.
“We have on the WTA and the ATP the same importance, if we can say. So it’s kind of weird they’re talking about Davis Cup and then they’ll see if they’ll do the same for the Fed Cup. So we’re a little bit like the last option.”
World No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 6 Petra Kvitova – who has won Fed Cup with the Czech Republic five times – are quite relieved the women’s competition is not on the ITF’s radar at the moment. There is strong opposition from many regarding the elimination of the home-and-away ties and both players feel strongly about the new proposed format.
“What do you think?” said Kvitova with a smile when asked if she’s grateful Fed Cup isn’t being discussed at the moment.
“We [Czech Republic] have many, many titles and I’m just happy how it is. Maybe I am surprised that Fed Cup is not in the talk but I’m probably glad for that as well.
“I just love to play in front of the crowd and playing a home tie is probably the best that we can have in this competition. It’s something really special for us and we have a great team and we’re still great team-mates as well so that’s very nice.”
Halep was clear in her views on the matter saying: “That’s a tough question but I will say my opinion. I like the historic thing and I like to be the same like always. Yes [I’m happy they’re not touching it right now].”
The debate for and against the proposed reforms has raged in recent weeks with some players, like Frenchman Lucas Pouille, saying they will boycott Davis Cup if the changes are voted through and many Australian legends describing the new plan as a death sentence for the competition, with Lleyton Hewitt dubbing it a “money-grab”.
A lot of politics is involved as well with the ATP and Tennis Australia looking to launch a new World Team Cup starting 2020, which would serve as direct competition to the Davis Cup.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber feels all this is hurting the sport, rather than adding to it.
“I was a little bit surprised [Fed Cup wasn’t mentioned] but at the end I think they are starting with the Davis Cup first then they’ll do the Fed Cup. I love to play Fed Cup and I hope that they will find a way to make all the discussion to stop and just play the game. Just playing, enjoying it and not making too much trouble around because that’s not fair for the sport as well,” said the German ex-world No. 1.
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza isn’t surprised about the exclusion of the women in the initial plans and believes something is in the works for the Fed Cup as well.
The two-time major champion admits the competition needs to be revamped but doesn’t have suggestions on how it can be improved.
“The traditional way is tricky. It’s tricky because with our calendar for sure it’s never the right moment but there are times where you feel like you have to go to the other part of the world and the next Monday you have a huge tournament to perform and how do you manage that? It doesn’t mean you don’t want to play for your country, all those things that you cannot make it. It’s very tough to play sometimes,” said Muguruza, who is a career 9-2 win-loss in Fed Cup rubbers.
“Yes it [the Fed Cup format] needs work but I understand it’s tough because I don’t see also how they can make it better. I know they’re thinking about it, I know they’re putting in the effort but it’s tough because someone is going to complain always.”
Former ATP No. 1 Andy Murray isn’t sure why Fed Cup wasn’t part of the initial plans but highlighted that the fragmented structure of power in tennis doesn’t help proper solutions for the collective.
“I think a lot of the kind of Davis Cup changes have been forced a little bit through what’s been happening with the ATP’s team event,” noted Murray.
“Tennis has issues because you have so many different bodies. It’s so difficult to sort of keep everybody happy. It would be a lot, lot easier if everyone worked together to come to, I don’t know, maybe a slightly better solution sometimes; whereas it feels like everyone is always looking out for their own interest as opposed to the interest of tennis as a whole.
“So I think if everyone did that, things would probably get done a bit quicker and it would probably be a bit more positive for the sport.”
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