Where world No. 1 Roger Federer and muscle-bound No. 2 Rafael Nadal go, so goes tennis fandom, including “fringe” tennis fans.
The 2007 Davis Cup was drawn last week, including the exciting first-round match-up such of Switzerland vs. Spain.
Federer and Nadal’s response?
The rest of international sports’ response to Davis Cup?
Why should international sports fans care about the Davis Cup, which is already bypassed annually by U.S. sports outlets, when tennis itself doesn’t even care about the Davis Cup?
Federer hasn’t played in a World Group match in over two years, explaining that his quest for the No. 1 ranking and additional Slam titles precludes him for extending himself for one weekend a few times a year. His one concession over the last two years has been swooping in at the end of the year during the World Group Playoffs to save the Swiss team from being bumped out of the elite group into zonal play.
Nadal for his part watches the way Federer goes about his business very closely. Nadal also wants to be No. 1 one day, and Rog has shown the Spaniard the way — blowing off the Davis Cup.
“I don’t know if I’ll play,” Nadal said Monday. “Normally, I don’t play the first round and at this moment I don’t know if I will.”
Nadal peaked in Davis Cup too early, in 2004 capturing the title in his very first year of competing for Spain, playing in all four ties and beating the U.S. in the final at Sevilla on clay. He’s already climbed the mountain. Insert cliche here.
With two French Open titles in the bag, Nadal knows what is important to his legacy — Slam titles, and lots of them.
“My aim is to play well at every tournament,” Nadal said.”But, given what it stands for, the one I would really like to do well in is Wimbledon…I’m still young and I have to keep working hard so that one day I will have the chance to become No. 1.”
It may not seem like it should be the ATP’s concern (they still don’t list the Davis Cup weeks on their yearly calendar, as if it didn’t exist), but the 105-year-old event, the largest international competition in world sport, is being squeezed by the tour’s want for players to compete at more events, while somehow remaining fresh for the Slams, and somewhere fitting in Davis Cup.
The Davis Cup is in danger of going the way of the women’s Fed Cup — the annual weeks where the players pony-up injuries or plead “exhaustion,” and B- and C-level players compete (bad that is unless you’re Kirsten Flipkens, and you suddenly get to take center stage as one of Belgium’s “top players”).
If the fantasy “Commissioner of Tennis” title did exist, and John McEnroe were at the helm, he’d be chewing someone’s ass over tennis treating it’s premier international competition like Mia Hewitt treats a diaper.
You want to watch Tommy Robredo vs. Stan Wawrinka in February, or Rog vs. Rafa? Which is better for tennis?
Roger Federer is responsible for Davis Cup. Rafael Nadal is responsible for Davis Cup. The International Tennis Federation is responsible, the ATP is responsible. Because with the increased physical and scheduling demands on the top players and no one being responsible for Davis Cup — with just the hope that players feel some patriotic duty to participate — it ain’t workin’ anymore.
(Ed. Note: Reportedly the Associated Press had misquoted Nadal, who said he wasn’t sure Federer would play, but that he would play. We are still waiting for a confirmation.)
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