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Bankruptcy or Burnouts

Posted on August 23 2018

It is an important week for the oldest team tennis tournament in the world, as the 118 year old Davis Cup faces a ‘crossroads’ in its future. The 210 ITF member nations will each vote to decide whether the competition continues in its current format, or whether it will turn into a week long event. While the ITF maintain that they risk bankruptcy without the changes, many of the power holders in the big tennis countries are vehemently against the new format.

Why Change?

Simply put, money. The new plans for a World Cup of Tennis at the end of the calendar year have strong financial backing from an investment group called Kosmos. It seems that the ITF, who govern tennis along with the ATP are pretty strapped for cash, and they believe the Kosmos plan can help solve their problems. Most other sports have World Cups or World Championships that happen over a week or two weeks, so this plan would bring tennis into line
with the rest of the sporting world. Undoubtedly, a week long tennis World Cup, where the best players are present, and treat it as a 5th Grand Slam would make for an excellent spectacle, but there are also a lot of issues.

 



Fans Love the Existing Format

The current format delivers intense drama and a high quality product. Watching a crunch Davis Cup match in a highly partisan crowd is a wonderful experience. Seeing tennis played out in front of a sea of red and yellow in a Spanish bullring or La Marseillaise being sung at change of ends is something you don’t get at the other tournaments; for this, the Davis Cup is unique. While you might be able to maximise profitability by making it a week long event in whichever city is willing to pay the most to host it, you are never going to be able to recreate the
atmosphere of the Davis Cup.

A Packed Schedule

As it is, the tennis schedule is already jam packed, with many commentators questioning whether such a schedule is leading to a spate of injuries. At the moment, the Masters Finals is the season ending event, but despite the undoubted prestige of the tournament, it is fairly commonplace for a high number of players to pull out through injury. The new Davis Cup proposal would add yet another tournament on at the end of the season. In its present format, matches are fit in throughout the season to spread the load, but a new tournament at the end of the year could see a lot of players unavailable through injury.

Tradition

While it’s not a Grand Slam, the Davis Cup carries a great deal of importance for the players. Over its 118 years, the tournament has established itself as THE team competition of world tennis, and it’s something that all players dream of winning. This is despite the fact that tennis is a very individual sport. Would a brand new team tournament inspire the players in the same way as the Davis Cup currently does? Or would it become yet another exhibition event?

Obviously the ITF has funding issues that it needs to address, but it seems like a new tournament won’t be a magic fix. The Davis Cup is already a wonderful spectacle as it is, and within tennis it is unique, why change it so drastically rather than finding ways to better monetize the current structure? It would seem like the proposals will struggle to pass, and the ITF will have to go back to drawing board. Perhaps they might return to looking at what they already have.

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