Is The Davis Cup A Dying Tradition?
The Davis Cup has held its tradition of being one of the biggest events in the tennis calendar for 117 years. After such a long time at the top, is it losing its appeal to both fans and competitors?
Not Fan Friendly.
Tennis can be beautiful to watch when played at the highest level, and there is nothing more enjoyable within the sport than watching two top athletes compete for their respective countries.
Up until now, the ITF has set matches as being best out of five sets. Best of five sets means a player has to win three sets in a row in order to win in straight sets. This in itself can take up to three hours.
THREE hours, just to win in STRAIGHT sets. I apologize if you fell asleep while reading that, I capitalized in an attempt to keep you with me.
Now, if the match goes the distance and lasts the full five sets, players are going to be out there for up to at least another hour, maybe two, in order to decide a victor.
This is a long time to be sat in the stands awaiting a victor. How many baseball games have you been to where you were bored after a couple of hours?
After Great Britain’s exit at the hands of France last week, captain Leon Smith stated the competition as being neither fan or player friendly:
“It’s a tough ask for children to come in and watch two five-setters in one sitting,” Smith told BBC’s Sportsweek.
“It’s simply too long. It’s not fan friendly and it’s not player friendly.” He added.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with cricket, but one-day test matches last quite literally, the entire day. What the governing body of cricket did, was create a streamlined event known as “20–20”, which abbreviated the current format of matches, leading to added excitement, in turn seeing the popularity of the events increase dramatically. The ITF’s decision to cut back to best of three sets in the Davis Cup will hopefully achieve the same.
Not Player Friendly.
Those of us who understand the grueling schedule and demands of a professional tennis player, appreciate how intense it must be. Being on the tour is both mentally and physically demanding, and the Davis Cup adds another event to an already peaked schedule.
Fans like seeing the top players compete. The event is less enjoyable when these players are unable to do so due to schedule congestion, leading to injury and further time on the sidelines. In the latest batch of quarter-final matches taking place this past week, Novak Djokovic was the only player inside the top ten to compete.
The ONLY player in the top ten.
Can you imagine a soccer World Cup without the top players? Would you remain as interested in the tournament?
Tournaments on the professional circuit run consecutively week after week. This means the top players reaching the latter stages of each tournament barely receive any down time between events.
When asked about the prospect of playing five sets in the Davis Cup, British captain Smith responded:
“If you’re playing a hectic schedule, you know you have to come in and play a five-set match on the Friday, potentially the doubles, then another best of five, that is too much.”
“That already puts the decision into a player’s head that that is too much and they can’t play.”
Changing the format to best of three sets doesn’t guarantee the participation of the sport’s top competitors. It does however make the event less repelling, and gives these players an increased incentive to represent their countries, which should be one of the most proudest accomplishments in an athletes career.
I for one, adore the Davis Cup. Both my father and grandfather competed for Great Britain in the event, and there have not been many prouder moments in my life than witnessing Britain lift the trophy in 2015.
Let’s hope these adjustments can breathe new life back into one of the most prestigious events in tennis.