Davis Cup bosses on Monday announced a climbdown in what proved to be an unpopular re-make of the historic competition, with the way now cleared for changes in format.
The international team event underwent a mighty shakeup in 2019, with the elimination of the traditional home-and-away format throughout the tennis season replaced by a one-week shootout between 18 contenders.
The ill-starred inaugural edition was won in November, 2019, in front of Spanish crowds by Spain in Madrid; the upcoming Final will also be held in the capital at the Caja Magica.
With the 2020 edition wiped out by COVID-19 and criticism of the scaled-down competition rife, the International Tennis Federation announced fresh plans for the tournament.
Among the options in the works: reducing teams at the Finals from 18 to 16, playing quarters and semis in a variety of cities and expanding the Finals to a more leisurely 11 days.
The ITF put its stamp on the plan, saying that consultations will begin “over the introduction of a multi-city format for the 2021 edition onwards.
“The proposals are aimed at improving the schedule for players, enhancing the experience for fans and bringing the competition to a wider audience.”
The Mark II competition, now run by a Spanish management company headed by an ex- footballer, has guaranteed the ITF a USD 3 billion payout over a quarter of a century in exchange for management rights.
The 2019 edition which was roundly panned by much of the sport, showed the need for new thinking for the event which began well over a century ago.
Spanish Finals TD Albert Costa was understandably all-in on the new plans:
“We recognise that the most successful tournaments adapt and evolve over time, and while the inaugural Davis Cup Finals delivered fantastic tennis, it also provided some learnings.
“We are committed to a long-term vision for this historic competition and are confident these adjustments will enhance the experience for players and fans,” the former Roland Garros champion said.
“With large stadiums providing show courts for all ties, the introduction of a multi-city event will bring the competition to the widest possible audience, while we will also be able to ease the burden on players with improvements to the scheduling.
“Crucially, a revised schedule will allow us to avoid late finishes while providing more rest for players.”
Under the new timeline, two new cities would each host two group stages and one quarter-final each, with Madrid hosting two group stages, two quarter-finals as well as both the semi-finals and the final.
Draws for the 2021 edition were made last March as the COVID-19 pandemic started to bite and 2020 Davis edition was canned.
The winner of each group and the two best runners-up (according to sets and games won) will advance to the quarter-finals.