The Davis Cup, existing as the premier annual team competition in men’s tennis since the turn of the 20th century, will be given a major overhaul if the ITF proposal to remould it into the ‘World Cup of Tennis Finals’ (I hope this is a placeholder name) comes to fruition. The ITF seeks to reenvision the Davis Cup as a one-week, single-location season finale, with ties comprised of three (two singles, one doubles) rubbers fought out in best-of-three-set matches, a round-robin stage to decide which eight nations qualify for the quarter-finals, and a concurrent play-off round allotting eight places for the following year’s finals. Sixteen teams from the World Group will qualify automatically for the event, while two more will be selected to join proceedings, bumping the number of competing countries up to 18. The end product should be a sleek, condensed affair compared to the ungainly anachronism that naysayers have so decried the Davis Cup in the past.
The ITF expounded the proposal—which was warmly received by the organization’s board of directors—today but will formally present it for review at the annual general meeting in Orlando, Florida this August. For the proposal to be approved, a two-thirds majority must vote in favour of it, and the suggested alterations are to come into effect in 2019. David Haggerty, president of the ITF, has every confidence that the revamped competition will not only “create a true World Cup of Tennis”, “but will also unlock record levels of new investment for future generations of tennis players and fans around the world.” Notice here his use of ‘will’, as opposed to the conditional, ‘would.’
Inasmuch as the event is equipped to start on a strong pecuniary footing, and the ITF can point to genuine support from some of the sport’s household names, Haggerty’s assurances are vindicated. Investment group Kosmos, which was founded by Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué, will partner the ITF for the next 25 years in a deal that is set to enrich both parties to the tune of $3 billion. Piqué, echoing the thoughts of Haggerty, believes that “together we (Kosmos and ITF) can elevate the Davis Cup to new heights by putting on a must-see World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring the top nations and top players.”
Of those top players, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are said to be firmly behind the ITF- and-Kosmos-led break with tradition. It’s a significantly more attractive proposition, for players of their import, to engage in a hyper-intense, week-long commitment than to be called up for a trickle of matches distributed across three-day weekends in February, April, September, and November, as the current format allows. Significantly, three of those four weekends follow on the heels of high-priority events on the season calendar—the Australian Open, US Open and year-end championships. Ultimately, however, the proof is in the pudding.
In the event that the outlined changes do occur, France won the last ever Davis Cup to be held under its current format. The most successful nation in Davis Cup history is (was?) the USA, 32 times the winner of the competition.