The Davis Cup needs some of the Olympic success

One of the most famous annual trophies in world sports is going through a crisis that not only complicates finances, but also does not allow us to imagine a structure of competition that seems difficult to sustain once this season passes.

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Carlos Alcaraz hits the ball during a singles match in the last Davis Cup. EFE/Kai Försterling
Carlos Alcaraz hits the ball during a singles match in the last Davis Cup. EFE/Kai Försterling

Not without some sense of arbitrariness, could the mainstream of men’s professional tennis be divided into two large groups.

In one hand, everything that is under the orbit of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), whose most visible area is the circuit that ranges from the so-called ATP 250 to the ATP 1000, those that distribute the most money and that come from going through its first two stages in Indian Wells and Miami and which has just started its premiere on clay at the glamorous Monte-Carlo Country Club. It is a calendar compressed into eleven intense months of competition and which also reserves space for the so-called Challengers, contests that distribute less money and points than those mentioned above but which fulfill, among others, two fundamental functions: to serve as a professional launch platform for the youngest and as a springboard for recovery for those who, already with more experience, have experienced a crisis of results or physical ailments.

In the other, there is everything that is played under the supervision of the ITF (International Tennis Federation): there live the four great gems of this sport, which are the open tournaments of Australia (Melbourne), France (Roland Garros), Great Britain (Wimbledon) and the United States (Flushing Meadow). Regardless of the battles of power and money, no one would think of doing without these competitions, by far the most prestigious in this sport.

Something similar is happening with the Olympic Games, which have become a week marked in red on the flight route of the game’s main stars since their reintegration in Seoul ‘88. Difficult to find significant absences in this regard. Not coincidentally, the historic medal table of the last 36 years includes names such as Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Yefgeny Kafelnikov, Sergi Bruguera, Alexander Zverev, Juan Martin del Potro, Andy Murray and, of course, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Reviewing the record of medals, it can be seen that, both among men and women, there is no doubt about the success represented by the return to the Olympic arena of this discipline.

There is extra merit in the success of this relationship since everything wasn’t always so smooth. Tennis was included as a men’s event already in Athens 1896, four years later women joined and the continuity was interrupted after Paris 1924. It seems incredible that it has been absent for more than 60 years and today it feels so natural to see the world’s leading rackets in action that, in order to be present, they even resign themselves to the possibility of using the brands of their main sponsors.

The other competition that the ITF controls, always talking about men, is the Davis Cup, probably the most famous annual trophy in the sport. Not to mention those that compete in teams.

We have already explained in this same space the challenge of competing in such a famous event as an organizational and financial crisis in a season in which the presence of the games further compresses an already suffocating schedule.

But there’s more to it than that. Nobody doubts the dates of September, for the group stage of the first category - venues in Bologna, Manchester, Valencia and Zhuhai - and November for the definition of the champion of the year starting with a quarter-final draw between the first two of the previous stage. Nor does anyone dare to say what the format will be like for 2025.

Especially because both because of the number of teams involved and the dates available, it seems difficult to return to the historic format of 16 countries playing simple elimination with the endearing location system. And the current scheme only seemed sustainable as long as the multi-million dollar contract with the company Kosmos, represented by the soccer player Gerard Pique, remained in force, which is the reason for a judicial dispute in which, as expected, everyone believes they are right. Whatever the outcome of the litigation, it is unlikely to end in an immediate time.

Is there a format that allows us to return to the sources without this implying giving up the presence of the main figures? Speaking of the figures, six of the members of the current Top Ten in the world ranking do not have a team that allows them to play in the so-called World Group. In this way, it is difficult to establish what we are talking about when it comes to having the best on the circuit in Davis. There was talk over there of using as a tool of seduction the idea of spacing out the competition every two years: anything that means taking more tradition and mystique away from the one already removed would only make the damage being done to the contest greater.

Meanwhile, tennis continues, Olympic success continues, the Davis Cup continues. Uncertainty continues.

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