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Swansong for Davis Cup in its present format

123   //    23 Nov 2018, 18:18 IST

The victorious France Team at the 2017 Davis Cup
The victorious France Team at the 2017 Davis Cup

As France and Croatia battle it out in the finals of the 2018 Davis Cup, it will mark the end of a glorious era in its 118-year history.

The two teams will face off on the clay courts of Lille's Stade Pierre Mauroy. The Davis Cup was held for the first time way back in 1900 at the Longwood Cricket Club, Boston. The United States were the inaugural champions, beating Great Britain in the final.

In its present form, it is curtains for the illustrious Davis Cup as the International Tennis Federation has decided to bring about sweeping reforms to the team event beginning from 2019. The key takeaway from the landmark restructuring by the ITF involves scrapping of the 'home and away' format which has been an integral part of the Davis Cup's storied history.

In today's world, however, Davis Cup is not followed as keenly as the Grand Slams and other major ATP tournaments as players already saddled by a punishing schedule routinely give the tournament a miss. It is remarkable to think that Federer and Nadal have faced off against each other 38 times till date but not once in the Davis Cup.

From 2019, an initial qualifying round will be held in February following the Australian Open and 18 teams will get together in Madrid in the month of November to take part in a week-long competition to determine the winner. Instead of the traditional 4 singles matches, only 2 will be played along with a single doubles match all contested in a best-of-three set format.

"I honestly don't see it as the end of an era as much as I see it as the end of a chapter of a long book," said David Haggerty, the president of the International Tennis Federation, which controls the Cup.

"The Davis Cup is dead, and part of the history of our sport is gone for a handful of dollars," Nicolas Mahut, runner-up at the 2018 ATP Finals last week, said on Twitter soon after the ITF voted for the proposed changes in August.

With the proposed ATP Cup scheduled to start in Australia in January 2020, just 6 weeks after the final of the Davis Cup in its new format, lingering doubts remain as to whether the 2 team competitions can co-exist.

Going into this weekend, Croatia are the favorites as they to repeat their heroics of 2005. French captain Yannick Noah, who led his team to victory as non-playing captain last year, will look to help France win another Davis Cup title in his final tournament as the French captain as he makes way for Amelie Mauresmo.