The Davis Cup 2021 ended at the end of the tennis year with the same predictable result with which it began together with the ATP Cup: the victory of the Russian squadron, the only one to field two top-five, Medvedev 2 and Rublev 5, a recent former top-ten, Khachanov and a top-20 like Karatsev, N.18 (but with a best ranking still in August of N.15). This is the third victory of the team of the russian federation after those of 2002 (3-2 against France) and 2006 (3-2 against Argentina) with Safin and Kafelnikov first, then with Youzhny, Davydenko and Tursunov; the merit of this latest success goes mainly to a Medvedev who won his 5 matches without losing a single set. In five matches, Russia have lost only two games, but one – that of the double given to the Germans – with the result acquired, when it counted for nothing and the reserves Khachanov and Karatsev were on the field. “I had only played the old Davis Cup once, but two years ago Nadal had won it here, this time there was Djokovic, it always seems to me an event that you can be proud of winning it”.
Maybe really the only team that could have competed for victory could be ours, if the Azzurri had been able to field both Berrettini and Sinner, because on the eventual 1-1 the Russian double would not have been unbeatable, whoever had played it.
The Madrid Arena of Casa de Campo – stadium practically reopened for the occasion after a fire on October 31, 2012, when 16,600 people gathered for a party called “Thriller Music Park”, had caused the death of 5 girls ( 3 aged 18) and 29 seriously injured in the desperate general stampede; then followed a series of legal actions related to the absence of a sufficient number of escape routes for all those people, and in March 2018 Miguel Angel Flores, the entrepreneur deemed “responsible” for the party and the lack of security, was sentenced 4 years of imprisonment – in any case recorded a more than fair turnout of the public in the final days, from 6,000 to 9,000 spectators, despite Spain not being present. Perhaps De Profundis does not deserve this match. If anything we will see ad Abu Dhabi.
This makes me believe that competing to be one of the four cities chosen to host one of the 4 groups of 4 (and no longer three) of the 2022 Davis Cup will be again:
1) Madrid, because it is difficult for the Kosmos of Pique and associates to give up;
2) probably Torino (or in any case another Italian city, since Turin already has the Nitto ATP Finals … but the logistical-organizational situation remains favorable and Italy has a super-competitive team capable of winning its group, unless there is a more… Gojo improvising mischief or Slovakia tripping us in Bratislava on March 4-5);
3) almost certainly London or Manchester (both candidates in 2019 to host the ATP Finals)
4) who knows if the fourth is not fly, which certainly would not lack the economic means to meet the demands of Kosmos and ITF. Indeed, Moscow could have been the candidate with the most chances to host the final stage. For the next 5 years the RTF will always be among the very first favorite teams for the reconquest of the new Davis.
All this hypothesized, it seems to me that the main novelty that emerged from the press conference of the ITF president David Haggerty and the chief executive office of Kosmos Enric Rojas may be – at least compared to the doubts and the first criticisms that emerged as a result of the rumors of the last few days and we have taken up again – lies in the announcement that also the quarter-finals, the semifinals and the final which will be played in neutral, will be played in an indoor stadium.
From the first indiscretions it had not immediately seemed so. It was evident that only in indoor stadiums the elimination phases could be hosted in the middle of winter in the four European cities that will organize the 4 groups from Tuesday 22 November 2022. And it seemed incredible to everyone that one could think of playing the elimination rounds for almost a week indoors and then expecting to play the final stages on outdoor courts instead.
This even if the climate would obviously allow Abu Dhabi to play safely outdoors. That Abu Dhabi will be the venue for the final stage, whatever they say, is almost taken for granted. Only the signature is missing. I don’t know why it is still missing, but at the moment no serious alternatives would have emerged… given the mountain of money it takes to grab the finals of the new format Davis Cup for 5 years. As I mentioned earlier, perhaps only Russia could guarantee as many (especially now that China, after the Peng Shuai case, with the WTA stance far more courageous than those of the ATP and CIO, seems to be out of the question).
In any case, this news reassures us on a sporting level and cancels what at first glance appeared to be an intolerable technical inconsistency.
But some flaws remain. And there are not a few. If it is true that for some years the top tennis has been mainly European – in Turin the eight “masters” qualified for the ATP Finals were all European, as were the two reserves – all non-European countries for the next 5 years will not be able to see even a Davis Cup home match, at least as far as the final stage is concerned. It is no small defect to leave out countries with indisputable great traditions in Davis for a five-year period.
Like the United States who have won 32 Davis Cups, such as theAustralia who won 28. The two countries for a long time able to monopolize Challenge Rounds and great challenges will no longer be able to attend a match played at home in the final stages, the ones that matter most, in front of their own public for 5 years. For them it will be only transfers and zero promotion at home. Ditto for the other two non-European nations that have won Davis, even if only once: Argentina and South Africa.
In recent days we have published the heavy criticisms of Lleyton Hewitt here in Ubitennis, of Isner and other American tennis players to the new format of this remodeled cup in 2019. They certainly haven’t changed their minds now. If anything, they will intensify their arrows.
I would say that it is especially in Australia that the Davis Cup continued to be very much felt, due to its great tradition – from ’50 to ’67 with captain Harry Hopman they won it 15 times in 18 years thanks to the formidable Sedgman, Rosewall, Hoad, Laver, Newcombe, Roche, Emerson, Stolle – even if the Aussies did not they won it more than for only 6 other times after ’67 (’73, ’77, ’83, ’86 and ’99, the last in 2003, 18 years ago, when they played the final at home, winning it 3 -1 against Spain).
In Australia the ATP Cup could end up gaining the upper hand over the Davis Cup in the collective imagination, even for purely logistical reasons. In fact, when it was played it had a notable success with the public everywhere. Even at the Australian Open, in pre-Covid times, the foreign presence has always been massive. Thanks to many enthusiasts eager to move to the heat by combining a tourist spirit, plus the many emigrants who work Down Under.
Continuing to refer to the other of the two powers that most of all wrote the history of the Davis Cup, Davis seems to be much less felt in North America today than in Australia (and also in Argentina). Media included. There is a substantial indifference from the East to the West Coast. For years the American networks have even snubbed the purchase of TV rights, also because US tennis was never a protagonist.
I was in Moscow when the USA’s Sampras, Courier e Martin they won in 1995 over the Russians who, having lost the final of the previous year with Sweden with the complicity of the president, the Boris Yeltsin and the minister of sport Tarpishev, would have made false cards to win it for the first time. Pete Sampras was the hero of those three days. He won two singles and double with Todd Martin … but above all a singles 6-4 in the fifth against Chesnokov on a very slow clay court with a winning forehand on the matchpoint … shot which fell victim to terrible cramps, screaming as if he was mortally wounded . Pete walked out of the field, carried by his companions. A dramatic ending. But really Sampras then said very disappointed, and complaining not a little, that in the USA his three epic victories had gone almost unnoticed., ending up in the “short” newspapers of the largest circulation.
Perhaps also for this lack of interest, as well as for the technical crisis experienced by American tennis by the competitive “disappearance” of their last number one (for 13 weeks) Andy Roddick, the USA captured Davis for the last time in 2007 (with Roddick and Blake in Portland, Oregon, right on Russia) after conquering it in ’78, ’79, ’81, ’82, 90, and ’95. In short, only once in the last 15 years, after 31 much more remote triumphs.
And they owe many of their victories between ’78 and 82 BC John McEnroe, who loved the atmosphere of that Davis Cup and who at that time was one of the strongest tennis players in the world, almost …a Djokovic in terms of love of country.
That of ’79, someone as old as I will remember, took place against Italy: McEnroe, Gerulaitis, Smith and Lutz in doubles did not leave a set in 5 matches in San Francisco to the blues Panatta, Barazzutti, Bertolucci and Zugarelli (alas there was even the pachydermic fan Serafino with his screams not to make us look very good) of which we have recently relived an anticipation of the Docuserie signed by Domenico Procacci on the occasion of the Turin Film Festival (which we will see come out on SKY around April-May) and that does not limit itself to recounting Pinochet’s disputed 1976 expedition to Chile at the time of the only Italian victory in the event created by Dwight Davis in 1900.