Spanish footballer at heart of Cup changes
Officials set to run the Spanish-dominated shake-up of the Davis Cup have gone on the offence in a clash of strong opinions regarding the validity of the controversial re-write of the classic competition.
Traditionalist Roger Federer — perhaps the most influential current voice in the sport — has gone on record as doubting the entire concept of condensing the worldwide team competition down to what will be essentially a one-week shootout between 18 teams to be debuted in just over a year.
The 37-year-old said he believed that the new format was “not designed” for him (and other veterans) but for the (short attention span) younger generation of players and fans.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner added that he also found it strange that the total restructure of the tournament which has existed for well over a century was instigated by a former Spanish footballer.
Gerard Pique’s most notable link to tennis is a friendships with fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
But his deep-pocketed management firm Kosmos is leading the charge to the new competition, promising up to $3 billion in prize money over the next quarter-century along with a total rule change.
The International Tennis Federation has signed on whole-heartedly to an unproven future revenue stream, with the federation’s American boss David Haggerty going all-in on the sketchy concept which will be tested in 2019.
“For us tennis players, it’s a bit weird to have a footballer in our world. He must be careful. Not that there is a Pique cup and the Davis Cup is pushed aside,” Federer said.
That kind of talk drew a sharp response from Kosmos, which has already signed up Madrid to host the competition in November and is busy lining up former Spanish players to run the ambitious and untested operation.
Kosmos CEO Javier Alonso blasted Federer in an interview with La Nacion in Argentina.
“Every person is free to think what he wants. It’s clear that Gerard is a football player, he is active and has had success.
“I do not understand the comparison that Federer wants to make, I do not know where he wants to get.
“(We have a) team behind, we have people reviewing things and producing ideas. Gerard does not come to the office every day. He is the president or a company that has a team that works, where you have tennis players who understand the sports world.”
Kosmos is quick to point out that Federer and his management company have made their own contribution to the crowded tennis calendar with the September Laver Cup, a Europe v World team competition which has enjoyed major success over its first two editions in Prague and last month in Chicago. It will be staged in 2019 in Geneva.
“Roger has started a tournament, I do not know if it’s a tournament, I do not know how to call it, the Laver Cup,” the Spaniard said.
“They have their interests. Our interest is to keep a competition with a 120-year history and to help its development.
“We have put a lot of money to keep the tennis world working and federations have a specific weight on the development.”
Other major players are also opposed to the new Davis concept, with No. 2 Novak Djokovic saying he would give precedence to the ATP-run World Team Cup revival set for January, 2020 in Australia – another controversial relaunch which could kill off a few ATP-WTA events now situated at the start of the season.
Fifth-ranked German Alexander Zverev said had the Davis format stuck with the “old” system, he would certainly play if Germany made the final.
But he ruled out competing in the new event: “I need my holidays and don’t want to play tennis 11 months of the year, maybe even into December.”
Among the big names, only Spain’s Nadal seems favourable to the competition to be held in his home country.