December 9th, 2010
11:20 AM ET

It's time for a change in tennis

Novak Djokovic helped Serbia to a thrilling first Davis Cup title, beating France 3-2 in the final. (AFP/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic helped Serbia to a thrilling first Davis Cup title, beating France 3-2 in the final. (AFP/Getty Images)

Well done Serbia! A great Davis Cup final was just what the doctor ordered for a prestigious tennis event which desperately needed a shot in the arm.

Let’s face it, the Davis Cup has lost much of its luster in recent years. The top players play sporadically in the teams tournament, preferring instead to focus on their individual careers.

But now that the men's ATP Tour has announced it will lengthen the off-season in 2012, the International Tennis Federation should use the moment to also change the format of the Davis Cup or risk it falling further into obscurity.

Rather than playing ties over the course of the best part of an entire year, why not have a week-long tournament at the end of the season?

It would be win or go home - matches would be best of three sets rather than five, and there would only be three rubbers so a tie could be played in a day. Two singles and a doubles to decide it.

Let’s make it fast and furious rather than slow and largely tedious!

Since 135 nations and territories regularly compete, there could be several divisions with relegation and promotion, just like football.

Countries could bid to host the tournament, with the ITF deciding on the winner in a televised vote!

The women’s Fed Cup is in a similar situation. It has rather lost its way. Theoretically, what’s to stop the Davis Cup and Fed Cup being played in alternate years? For example, the Davis Cup takes center stage in 2011, the Fed Cup in 2012?

Having the tournaments every other year might encourage the top players to participate. Most want to represent their countries, but the schedule discourages those who’ve been around a bit.

It’s time for a change and a more dynamic format is the answer – there’s an audience out there, we just need a reason to watch!

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Filed under:  Tennis
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    Maybe it has lost its luster because the USA is not winning. there did not seem to be a lack of support for France or Serbia and last years winners Spain. I disagree with the 3 set format. It is too much of a "shot gun" approach for something as important as the Davis Cup. I think that will take away it significance even more. Next it will be slams with 3 sets. What perhaps needs to be done is give more inventive for the top players...ie MONEY. love of country is one thing but for professional athletes money is the motivation. That will take away the excuses of scheduling, injury, rest, etc. When the money was not so good, the glory for country had a greater significance. BTW i think its high time women start playing 5 sets since they are now getting the same money.

    December 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  2. eric

    So many players do want to play Davis Cup for their country but often they have already played so many matches,and have more 'important' ones to play that they are worried about exhaustion and injury. I think your ideas are good,Candy.

    December 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  3. Mixas

    The reason why the Davis cup is obscure is that it is not on TV the same way as Grand Slams or Masters Series are. The Davis Cup matches are usually well fought battles. I think the solution would be for the Davis Cup to be available online for free all across the world–this will increase the audience a few times.

    And, of course, as Andrew says, some decent cash for the players would attract the top players to the competition.

    I disagree that the format is the solution, and even less so that the Fed Cup and the Davis Cup should alternate.

    The Fed Cup sure lost its luster over the last years. The same can be said about most of ladies tour starting from November–it is eclipsed by the ATP World Tour Finals. The WTA needs some serious thought about these.

    December 9, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  4. Jarrell

    I do agree with the reformation of The Davis Cup and Fed Cup, but some of your suggestions just aren't too logical. A week-long event? That's entirely too much tennis to be played in such a short span of time. I think they should take advantage of some of the longer breaks in tennis, such as after Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the little break in late February before Paribas and Sony Ericcson, or even play the semi's and finals after The Barclays Championships. At the end of the day, players have to want to play. You can offer money, but there are players like Serena, Henin, Federer and Nadal in which such a thing would make a difference. There has to be 5 rubbers; it wouldn't be the same without that.

    December 9, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  5. Don

    Something needs to be done. Your ideas have merit. Perhaps the point is simply to get a discussion started and develop the best ideas from that. Good job getting the ball rolling.

    December 9, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  6. Paula Ferrand

    I'm not sure if playing a Davis Cup in one or two weeks will really make that the top tennis players take part in it.

    If you think that Davis Cup must change to have something to watch, as the top tennis players on the edge of and the whole country presion, I think I might be agree.

    BUT I'm not agree to change traditions in favor of commercial interest, as sponsors would like more time for TV commercials in a match of 3 sets instead of a macth of 5. ALL tennis tournaments and the ATP World Tour Finals already changed because of it! And Grand Slams are going in the same way just because of the USA TV interest!

    So I hate to think that we're changing traditions and competitions just because a few powerful and rich sponsors!

    December 9, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  7. Yolita

    Fast and furious rather than slow and rather tedious?

    Davis Cup is anything but slow and rather tedious. I love the format and I always try to watch as many Davis Cup matches as I can. It's an entirely different atmosphere!

    Many players and many countries take Davis Cup very seriously. Lots of players love playing for their country. The fact that the US, the UK and Australia are no longer the main players is irrelevant. It hasn't lost any luster in the eyes of most tennis fans.

    December 9, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  8. Peter & Pam Eggleton

    Sounds well thought out and common sense to us on the sidelines, so good luck with the possibilities of implementation. Well done Candy!

    December 9, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  9. John

    I agree with the author. I'm a tennis enthusiast, I enjoy playing and watching tennis but I have never watched a Davis cup match in my life. It is definitely not considered a prestigious event by the tv stations – the local cable channels don't show it so how are people going to watch it. Davis cup needs to change its format to something similar to the grand slam or soccer world cup. Hold the whole event over a 1-2 weeks period, hype up the event, get major sponsors etc. The current format is too tedious – what with the home and away games and such.

    December 9, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Reply
  10. jorgen friis

    Scrap it. am sure those who dont really care whether the DC is played
    or not far outnumber those who keep living in the past wanting a status
    quo scenario. The season is far too long as it is and players deserve a
    break that they only get when injured or otherwise. I for one feel the
    DC is a thing of the past and quite frankly I wouldnt lose any sleep if it was
    put on the scrap heap

    December 10, 2010 at 1:01 am | Reply
  11. Craig (Ghent, Belgium)

    I like the ideas although I have doubt such a radical change would be done by the organizors. What about making the points of matches played count towards your ranking? Since most players do not play in all possible tournaments it would not give a particular advantage to any player just because they had more matches in Davis Cup and it would provide an additional incentive for top players to get involved.

    I have to agree about the national issues. Here in Belgium the Davis Cup and Fed Cup don't get much attention unless Clijsters or Henin are playing. The U.S. will have the same problems until they are contending again. That will always be the problem with events based on national competition. It is only the World Cup of Football that attracts worldwide viewers even if their country is not playing.

    December 10, 2010 at 11:47 am | Reply
  12. Jesse

    Interesting article and comments. DC is about providing tennis events in countries that otherwise would not have the opportunity to host such events. It's the only tennis competition in the world that does that. Excellent comments on both sides of the coin – but at the end of the day DC needs to serve its intended purpose first.

    December 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  13. Candy

    Hi, this is Candy Reid of CNN's World Sport ... Great comments all – but we need more! Get your friends, who also love tennis, to join in. Maybe a theme will start to stand out and who knows – the ITF might take note!

    The truth is, the players want to play the Davis/Fed Cup. I had lunch with the very lovely and talented Victoria Azarenka on Tuesday (look for our piece on her on 'Open Court' and 'World Sport') she said she would always make Fed Cup a priority.

    But there are other top players for whom it's just another event. When making their schedules for the year (which they need to do the year before) the individual tournaments come first and then they see if the Davis/Fed Cup will fit in. Many times it won't.

    It needs to be the other way round!

    A shorter format has to be the way in my opinion. Let's make it like the World Cup – the pinacle of the year.

    Keep those comments coming!!

    December 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  14. alehandro

    Davis Cup and Fed Cup are irrelevant team events in an otherwise exclusively individual sport. Same goes goes for the Hopman Cup, but at least that's a light-hearted warm-up for the Australian Open so it has its uses. A condensed format for the DC and FC would help them as spectacles, but the fact of the matter is that tennis does not need these competitions. And at a time when players are seeking to play less tennis, dropping them is an obvious move.

    December 12, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  15. Rori

    There's no doubting the fervent national pride associated with those that play in the DC. It's a joy to watch. I would like to see it held on a four yearly cycle. This would be more mouth watering for players and spectators alike.

    December 13, 2010 at 12:28 am | Reply
  16. Margaret Rayner

    Hi Candy – I totally agree with your comments on Davis and Fed cup – as with most logical ideas they never get used. Keep trying.
    I too was thrilled Serbia won it – it was so exciting especially as the last match decided it.
    Look forward to reading more of your comments. Happy Christmas and hears to a good 2011.
    In passing I went to the O2 in London and saw the Federer/Soderling match which was brillient – so too the Bryan brothers.

    December 13, 2010 at 9:51 am | Reply
  17. Janne

    Hi Sweet Candy (is Kate even sweeter?🙂 )
    You asked in sunday's (Dec 12) World Sport who's going to rock in 2011.

    I think the year 2011 will be Federer's. He's so strong, mentally. Rafael Nadal&co must do something really magic to beat Roger in 2011. Somehow I feel FedExpress still has an ace in his pocket and he doesn't even need to use it, if the other guys struggle. Unfortunately, I would not put my money on Rafael Nadal in '11. Novak Djokovic also seems too unsure.

    Still both Rafa and the Djoker have bigger chances to make headlines, than our Jarkko Nieminen.

    Merry Xmas from 23yrs old sports journalist in Espoo, Finland.

    December 13, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  18. Deb

    whatever changes
    i just want nice games!!!!
    but it's cool to know that they do wanna change for the better
    well done!

    December 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  19. Janne

    And for the Davis Cup: the problem is there are too many other venues in tennis. Just like in ice hockey and traditional football. Some should press stop!
    Let the cool classic venues (like the Davis Cup) stay and take away the tons of dull ice cream, no one wants to eat. Too much is too much. I know money rules, but we need love and respect for sports!

    December 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Reply
  20. pippo

    Davis cup matches are played on 5 sets, which makes them very interesting, hard fought and dramatic. It's a great competition that just needs to be reorganized. Playing on alternate years with Fed cup is a good idea. By the way, US is the only federation that allows their best players to avoid being part of the squad giving lame excuses or no excuses at all. But in the rest of the world both cups are respected, followed and watched. Just look at the names of the players. US are not the world.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:11 am | Reply
  21. Peter Acer

    Like it, are you listening ITF?

    December 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Reply

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