(Reuters) – The 119-year-old Davis Cup was in need of a revamp as the old format did not allow the top players to compete over the course of a year, Britain’s Jamie Murray has said.
The new week-long tournament in Madrid’s Caja Magica, involving 18 teams split into six groups of three, is being bankrolled by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique’s investment firm Kosmos, who are pumping in $3 billion over 25 years.
The old format originally had home and away ties, usually played between February and November, preventing higher-ranked players competing at Grand Slams and ATP tournaments from taking part.
“The top players weren’t able to commit to the event, not because they didn’t want to or because they didn’t like the Davis Cup, it was just because it took so much time out of their schedule during the year,” he wrote in a column for the BBC https://www.bbc.com/sport/tennis/50477284.
“If you got to the final, it could be eight weeks in your year and with the fixtures always played right after the Grand Slams, ATP Finals or other big events. It meant the ties didn’t come at the right time of the calendar.
“A lot of the top players are here … Players love representing their countries, but also because there has been a huge injection of cash from Kosmos. There are definitely financial incentives for guys to come and play here.”
One of the biggest criticisms of having all matches at a neutral venue is the lack of an atmosphere because organisers are unable to sell out the arena.
Last year’s final in Lille had around 60,000 fans in attendance when France lost to Croatia but only a handful of their supporters turned up on Tuesday to watch Les Bleus beat Japan in the group stage.
“I hope people do come out and support the event because it has the potential to be a great event,” Murray added. “It’s like the football World Cup, a lot of those matches aren’t necessarily glamour matches and the stadiums aren’t full.
“I’m sure it’ll be the same here but for the real big matches we hope the stadiums will be packed and provide a great atmosphere which showcase potentially the best tournament in tennis.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates)