Davis Cup: Will the proposed changes bring about the death of the tournament?

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France are the defending Davis Cup champions

The Davis Cup is 118 years old and was the antecedent that made tennis a popular international sport. The British and the Americans were the first to play the tournament and soon the event became one of the most prestigious tournaments in sports.

But in the recent years, the Davis Cup has lost its legacy, sheen and global reach as the Olympics, the ATP Masters 1000 tournaments and Grand Slams gained most of the audience attention. Even the top players don't choose to play the Davis Cup because of a long and tiring ATP Tour calendar and also because no ranking points are gained by the player at the Davis Cup.

Therefore, in the past years, there were debates going on for the possible format changes in the event as "the Davis Cup is too important for the sport to become just another event in the calendar with no real meaning," as stated by John Newcombe.

The International Tennis Federation in 2017 therefore decided to trial the new format in 2018 Davis Cup. The board was given the authority to decide on the Davis Cup and Fed Cup trials in a vote-by-member meeting at the 2017 ITF Annual General meeting last August.

The ITF President David Haggerty said, "We are as determined as ever to enhance our flagship team competition for our players, fans, hosts, nations, broadcasters and sponsors. The nations voted to give the Board the flexibility to trial change, and the board has acted fast to make this happen in 2018."

The most radical overhaul in the 118-year history of the Davis Cup could be given a green signal as the tennis officials gather in Florida to vote on sweeping reforms, which have divided the sport. Haggerty proposed the transformation of the existing format, stretched across the whole year, played all over the world, compressed into a season-ending tournament played at a neutral venue like the ATP tournaments and Grand Slam events. Haggerty feels that this new transformation will develop and boost tennis in the years to come.

The tournament could become one of the most important events of tennis and could be termed as the 5th Grand Slam of the calendar year. The event could also be called the World Cup of tennis and can become as popular as the World Cup of other sports.

The reforms have a 3 billion dollar backup partnership from Kosmos Investments of Gerard Pique; Spain and FC Barcelona football player, which is supported by billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani of Japan.

The changes have evoked mixed reactions from the current and former players. Rod Laver, John Newcombe and Lleyton Hewitt did not like the changes and condemned the proposed transformations. Hewitt feels that the changes are just to make money and the history of tournament is not taken care of.

Serbian star Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, came in full support for the revamped overhaul as he feels the tournament was long overdue and required some changes and is in favour of those. Before this, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had also commented on the long schedule of the Davis Cup.

If the changes are approved, the new format of the event would be played in 2019, with Europe hosting the first two events. One hurdle could be the introduction of the World Team Cup with Australia hosting in 2020, where 24 teams would be featuring with rankings and prize money. Only time will tell whether the overhaul of the Davis Cup would happen or not and would the new format be a success.

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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