Andy Murray voices concerns over new Davis Cup format as Roger Federer reserves judgement

The International Tennis Federation, which runs the Davis Cup, voted earlier this month for sweeping changes

Paul Newman
Saturday 25 August 2018 10:04
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Andy Murray faces the media ahead of the US Open
Andy Murray faces the media ahead of the US Open

Andy Murray wants tennis to get behind next year’s revamped Davis Cup but is concerned that the changes to the historic team event might not be in the competition’s best long-term interests.

The International Tennis Federation, which runs the Davis Cup, voted earlier this month for sweeping changes. Instead of a knock-out tournament played on different dates during the year, the leading 24 countries will play in a qualifying round in February before a new week-long tournament played at a single venue late in November.

Eighteen countries will take part in the end-of-season tournament: the 12 winners from the qualifying round, the four semi-finalists from the previous year and two wild cards.

The ITF is hoping that the revamping of the competition will breathe new life into the Davis Cup, which has suffered in recent years because many of the top players have chosen not to take part.

However, many people within tennis are concerned at the lengthening of the season for players taking part in the year-end event. There are also concerns about the cutting back of home-and-away ties, which have always been one of the main attractions of the Davis Cup.

Meanwhile the sport’s lack of a single governing body has been highlighted by the fact that the Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the year-round men’s tour, is launching another tournament similar to the new Davis Cup event in partnership with Tennis Australia. The World Team Cup, which will start in 2020, will feature 18 teams and will take place in Australia in the first week of January.

Andy Murray is making his grand slam return at the US Open

The Lawn Tennis Association voted against the ITF’s plans to change the Davis Cup, but more than 70 per cent of members voted in favour. The new format will be launched next year.

“I would have abstained,” Murray said here on Friday. “From pretty much every single player that I've spoken to, and I've been in player council meetings where we've discussed things with the ITF and stuff, all players love playing Davis Cup. You can't question that. You watch the players play, the passion and how much they get out of it.

“But obviously something wasn’t working because the top players were not playing. I don’t know whether that was because of scheduling, [the matches] coming immediately after the Slams, things like that. Possibly it was because it was every single year and it was a bit too demanding.

“I think there were potentially less drastic changes that could have taken place to make it better, like even keeping potentially the same format but doing it every couple of years. I've heard lots of different ideas and discussions that were not quite as drastic as what's happened.

“I think having a week-long team event in the middle of November, followed by a week-long team event at the beginning of January, that’s confusing for fans. I don’t think that it makes it easy for the players to decide which one’s more important. Do you play the ITF one or the ATP one? It's not a perfect fix.

“But you have to give the decision that's been made a chance to work and see. We should try to get behind it and support it and see if it works. If it does, fantastic. But if not, I believe you can always change and go back. That's also an option.”

Roger Federer said he wanted to know more about the ITF’s and the ATP’s plans before making any judgement. “I think we've still got a long way to go until we get all the facts on the table from the ITF, what their exact thoughts are about the Davis Cup,” he said. “I'm only hearing rumours, but nothing has really been set in stone yet.

Roger Federer is yet to make up his mind on the new format (Getty)

“The ATP, from their side, with Tennis Australia, what exactly is it going to look like and where exactly is it going be played in Australia? All these things I'm also not quite up to date yet. So I think we will know much more in the coming months.

“I was pretty quiet about the Davis Cup beforehand just because I didn't know how to fix it, but I always knew that the ITF was never going to change it from an every-year event to an every-second-year event. Why would the ITF just give up something that they have? It's not what the business asks for.

“I think that was never an option for them, anyway, so they had to do something different. So this is their proposal or their idea now. So they've got their hands full.I understand that there are players who are unhappy, sad, angry, and relieved. I don't know what it is going to be yet.I'm in between. I don't know what to think.”

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