Davis Cup: Savour the Format
On the 1st of December, Bob and Mike Bryan clinched the Davis Cup for the US, winning their doubles match against Russians Igor Andreev and Nikolay Davydenko in Portland. Two months later, the same fabulous four (Roddick, Blake and the Bryans) and captain P-Mac have landed in Austria, trying to hold on to their fresh earned Cup. The American team isn’t happy to put their champions status on the line so soon already, as the thought that they’ve just won the coveted trophy is still sinking in.
Is it fair that the Cup victors are back in the grind a mere two months after the final? Winning the Davis Cup doesn’t come with a special package full of extras. There’s no home court advantage in the team’s next appearance. They still have to play on whatever surface their opponents come up with in an away match, and they have to play as many ties as any other nation, in order to win the Cup the following year.
While I’m not in favour of the champions picking a court surface in a first round away tie, there’s something to be said for giving the winners some sort of incentive. The downside from handing the holders a bye into the last eight would mean that we lose at least one World Group country, and I can’t say I’m in favour of that. The finalist would probably receive a bye as well, or the whole play-off system would have to be revised due to the odd number it creates of going back to 15 nations.
All in all, I’d say that I like the option of offering a home court opener for the defending champions in their next campaign. It’s a minor change, but it’s a good thing that the fans will be able to cheer for their victorious comrades at least once the following year, instead of seeing them drop out in their first appearance away from home, never getting the opportunity to watch their Cup-holders up-close. The players will be happy that they won’t need to travel abroad, and of course they’ll have the added benefit of being able to choose the venue and court surface.
The Davis Cup format is great the way it is. There’s a lot of talk about changing the schedule and even moving the entire event into a two-week slot, but I would consider it a big disappointment if there’d be a change in the format. It’s nice to have it spread out over a season. A country stays in contention longer and there’s enough time to create a buzz about a tie leading up to a Davis Cup weekend. Unless, of course, you’re an American and the Davis Cup is hardly given its worth. It seems to me that most of the criticism on the format comes out of the United States. But is there any format that could truly please Americans and create massive interest? I wouldn’t say the US is ‘just another country’ in Davis Cup, but we should consider that most of the nations involved in the competition do warm up for those Cup weekends. This is especially true for teams playing at home.
Isn’t it so that the Davis Cup charm is about playing ties in obscure Eastern European cities, or in South American hotbeds, in front of electric crowds who passionately cheer on their compatriots, as if they were involved in a big soccer match? There’s no way such an atmosphere can be created if the entire Cup would be played out on a single venue over a two-week time span. The dates have been rescheduled a little to accommodate the top players, and in my opinion, there isn’t much more that could be done to improve the competition. There’s too much history to make radical changes to the format. I love the Davis Cup, and I can’t wait to see my Netherlands get back to the World Group. With Robin Haase, it looks like we’re finally getting another decent player.
Let me just say something about Fed Cup to conclude this piece. I don’t like the fact that it is played out over two days instead of DC’s three, and the doubles features as fifth match. Why can’t both formats be the same? It certainly wouldn’t hurt the sport to have an identical competition for both men and women. Also, it’s about time the Fed Cup expands to 16 nations instead of the current 8. There’s plenty of competition nowadays.
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