If you ask any tennis player what the highlight of their career is, the likely answer will be the time that they did the best in a grand slam or other ATP tournament. You see, tennis is a sport about individual success. But for a few weeks in every year tennis becomes a team sport, as the World’s finest do not compete for themselves, but rather for their countries. This past weekend South Africa, without Kevin Anderson, were annihilated by Slovenia and were consigned to a playoff with the Russians to maintain status in Group 1. I was disappointed. It failed to make most news reports on the radio this morning and was not even mentioned alongside Romain Poite or AC Leopards.
The Davis Cup is supposed to be something special that players long to play for. Novak Djokovic is the first to claim that it was the 2010 Davis Cup that launched his 2011 super year. But few see the Davis Cup as this, spectators do not pack the crowds, supporters don’t organise braai’s and fans don’t really care. This is evidenced by the complete lack of outcry on social media for the lack of television coverage. The Davis Cup was extinct a few years ago, it has now died even more.
Some will say there is no space for team competition in a sport more about individual ability, but to those we must point to another individual sport, golf. In golf there is huge honour in being selected for either the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup. For many golfers the highlight of their career will be competing in the Ryder Cup. The team competition in golf has history, but more importantly it has prestige. That is where tennis needs to go towards in a complete revamp of Davis Cup Tennis.
Currently teams play on five various weekends for the Davis Cup in various head to head matches. Here is what I propose they should do to change the look and feel of 113 year old tournament:
- The competition takes too long. Lets rather build a vibe. Get countries to bid for the hosting rights (Like the Football World Cup, the Olympics, Rugby World Cup etc.). Then for two weeks play the tournament at that venue. Can you imagine, two weeks of Davis Cup at Roland Garros.
- Hold the competition every second year. The reason the Ryder Cup is special, is because it isn’t played on six different weekends every year.
- When the final is on, have no other games on. This will be the showpiece event.
- Have no ATP tournaments the week before, or the week right after. This will inevitably lead to a much bigger party atmosphere and would also give time for the top players in World Tennis to prepare.
- Secure the big names and with that you will secure big sponsorship. The BMW Davis Cup has a nice ring to it.
Imagine a Serbia vs. Spain final after two epic weeks and its tied at 2-2. Who steps up for the final match? Well, its Rafa vs. Novak. They produce another 5 hour classic in front of a sold out stadium and the World watches on. That’s the romance that team sport can have, that’s the romance the Davis Cup could have. But if it doesn’t change soon, the only romance it will have is with itself!