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tennisIlove09
Apr 21st, 2007, 09:48 PM
Tennis' troubled team events

By Joel Drucker
Special to ESPN.com

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Nothing in tennis gets the blood boiling more than a lively Davis Cup series. Usually solitary warriors, the players join forces and cheer each other on. Flags wave, fans scream and when all these emotions enter the picture, the possibility of stirring drama increases. Each year, on every continent, there are tales of Davis Cup matches that prove legendary basketball coach John Wooden's remark that "sport doesn't build character, it reveals it."

Sadly, the Davis Cup is in disrepair. For more than 75 years, home nations have manipulated the court surface in their favor. The structure of the competition is such that it's difficult to follow and hard to promote. And worst of all, an increasing number of players simply don't play. This year, for example, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal -- who would have been slated to face one another in the first round -- declined. Yes, each is free to choose, but surely it's a shame that a competitive event which can be so compelling fails to put its best step forward. Earlier this year, 19 of the top 20 men's players signed a petition urging the ITF to schedule Davis Cup rounds closer to the conclusion of Grand Slams. But the ITF declined.
http://assets.espn.go.com/photo/2007/0327/ten_g_serena_275.jpg
Elsa/Getty Images
Serena Williams will play in the Fed Cup for the U.S. for the first time since 2003.




In order to keep countries from monkeying around too much with their courts, the ITF will soon decree that the speed of any hard-court surface (indoor or outdoor) used for Davis Cup fall into a certain range.

But the Davis Cup is as healthy as Jack La Lanne when compared to Fed Cup, the women's team event a noted analyst once dubbed "Fed-Up Cup." This weekend the U.S. hosts Belgium, theoretically a superb matchup given the presence of Belgian stars Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters. Neither will play. Lest you think Venus and Serena Williams are on board this weekend because they're deeply committed to the event, guess again. One major reason the sisters are playing is that by participating in Fed Cup this year, each will be eligible for the 2008 Summer Olympics (yet another big-time opportunity for tennis that's even more of a joke).

Bringing change to tennis' team events tragically showcases tennis' U.N.-like discord. When matters of marketing and popularity are brought up, many have countered that's largely an American problem, a function of the tiny role tennis plays in our country's sports landscape. Smaller tennis nations in particular count on hosting Davis Cup rounds to generate revenue. But as U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said, "When you have guys like Nadal and Federer not playing, you know it's more than a single nation. These guys are trying to do the best job they can to manage their schedules, and so it's tricky to also make time for Davis Cup."

"Our sport deserves a first-rate Davis Cup format," ESPN analyst Cliff Drysdale said.

Over the years, Drysdale has been one of many who has proposed a completely different approach. According to Drysdale, "The semis and final should all take place at once, at the home site of the defending champion. This way there's an appropriate buildup all year long."

Hall of Famer and longtime U.S. Davis Cup stalwart Jim Courier has an even more ambitious vision. Borrowing from such examples as golf's Ryder Cup and soccer's World Cup, Courier believes the Davis Cup "should take place no more than every other year." The competition would call for a two-week event with 16 teams competing in one host nation. Earlier rounds would still be hosted at other nations. The Fed Cup would occur at the same place, a bit staggered in time.

"The goal is to have something that allows media and fans to easily focus and understand both of these events," Courier said.

Another reforming voice comes from Billie Jean King. More than 30 years ago, she launched World Team Tennis, the co-ed team competition that she believes has a format that would be an ideal fit for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup and yes, the Olympics. A team tennis match consists of one set apiece of men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. Typical matches last just over two hours. An added benefit, said King, "is that these are the kind of values we want to transmit through sports: men and women, working together." It's a captivating idea. Imagine, for example, an Olympic gold medal coming down to a mixed doubles match between Venus Williams-Andy Roddick and Marat Safin-Maria Sharapova.

Instead, on Monday, ITF president Ricci Bitti released a statement that would no doubt earn applause from politicos of any ideology: "The ITF wants to assure the players that we have listened to their views about the scheduling of Davis Cup … we are confident that we can come to an agreement including the possibility of ranking points that will please all of our constituents: players, national associations, sponsors, media and the public."

Just don't bet on the glacial world of tennis to melt any icebergs. Reform for the Davis Cup and Fed Cup will come more slowly than the muddiest clay court imaginable.
Joel Drucker is based in Oakland, Calif., and writes about tennis for Tennis Magazine and The Tennis Channel.

ToeTag
Apr 21st, 2007, 10:33 PM
the women's team event a noted analyst once dubbed "Fed-Up Cup."Carillo said that, and I wish fed cup would go back to a one week event.

Wiggly
Apr 21st, 2007, 10:40 PM
Difficult to follow? Except Zonal Group, you win the tie, you advance:rolleyes:

ys
Apr 21st, 2007, 11:09 PM
Troubled team events? I watched only my Russia DC matches so far, and they both were nailbiting.. And USA-Russia Fed Cup semis is going to be a humdinger.. Start thinking about it already..:)

goldenlox
Apr 22nd, 2007, 12:18 AM
In the US, all of tennis is troubled.
When Russia played France in Fed Cup in 2005, the big stadium at RG was sold out both days. That's about 30,000 tickets sold.

aussie12
Apr 22nd, 2007, 01:14 AM
i would like to see it in like a team tennis style event with the following set up. i think it would bemuch more exciting
- MENS AND WOMENS TOURNAMENTS ARE COMBINED
- THE WINNER OF THE MENS & WOMENS EVENTS RECIEVE THE DAVIS CUP AND FED CUP RESPECTIVELY
- WHOLE TOURNAMENT WOULD BE ONE LOCATION, CHANGING EVERY YEAR
- TOURNAMENT LASTS 3 WEEKS, THIS SAVES PLAYERS EXTRA FLIGHTS AND
GIVES THEM AN EXTRA WEEK OF REST
- HOST COUNTRY CHOOSES COURT SURFACE OF TOURNAMENT
- MATCHES CAN BE PLAYED IN ONE CITY, OR THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY ON THE SAME SURFACE,
DEPENDING ON THE COUNTRIES SIZE AND FACILITIES.
- 16 TEAMS FOR BOTH MALE & FEMALE
- TEAMS ARE PUT IN TO GROUPS OF 4 DETERMINED BY SEEDINGS
- WINNER AND RUNNER UP OF EACH GROUP ADVANCE TO THE NEXT STAGE
- ALL TIES ARE PLAYED OVER 5 SETS
- THE SETS INCLUDE: SINGLES, SINGLES, DOUBLES, REVERSE SINGLES, REVERSE SINGLES
- BEST OUT OF 5 SETS WIN, ALL SETS ARE PLAYED EVEN THOUGH THE RESULT MAY OF
ALREADY BEEN DETERMINED, AS THIS COUNTS TO THE FOR AND AGAINST IN GROUP STAGE
AND FOR DIFFERENCE IN PRIZEMONEY IN THE FINALS
- 14 TEAMS ARE AUTOMATICALLY DETERMINED BY THE RANKINGS OF THEIR PLAYERS.
-THE COUNTRY WITH BEST RANKED SINGLES PLAYER AUTOMATICALLY QUALIFY. THIS ENSURES THE BEST PLAYERS PLAY AND ALSO GIVES REASON
FOR COUNTRIES TO SUPPORT THEIR PLAYERS THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE YEAR.
- THE PREVIOUS YEARS WINNER AND THE HOST COUNTRY ALSO QUALIFY AUTOMATICALLY,
IF THESE TEAMS ARE IN THE TOP 14 ALREADY THEN THE NEXT TWO BEST RANKED TEAMS QUALIFY.
-- THE AVERAGE RANK OF THE TOP TWO SINGLES PLAYERS DETERMINES THE SEEDINGS.

Joana
Apr 22nd, 2007, 01:26 AM
Another reforming voice comes from Billie Jean King. More than 30 years ago, she launched World Team Tennis, the co-ed team competition that she believes has a format that would be an ideal fit for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup and yes, the Olympics. A team tennis match consists of one set apiece of men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. Typical matches last just over two hours. An added benefit, said King, "is that these are the kind of values we want to transmit through sports: men and women, working together." It's a captivating idea. Imagine, for example, an Olympic gold medal coming down to a mixed doubles match between Venus Williams-Andy Roddick and Marat Safin-Maria Sharapova.



BJK should just shut up and go away. No one cares about your stupid WTT. That's bullshit, not tennis. I'd rather have no tennis at the Olympics at all than this mockery.

Shvedbarilescu
Apr 22nd, 2007, 03:33 AM
What makes the Fed Cup and Davis Cup special is the home and away aspect of it. When people suggest formats that remove this aspect you end up with a sterile end product. For the Fed Cup and Davis Cup to work you need a home audience to support one of the teams. The Davis Cup has this at almost every level. Unfortunately Fed Cup only provides this for the top 16 teams in the world.

So the Fed Cup does need so more tinkering but certainly not some of these ridiculous ideas to turn it into some World Cup/Ryder Cup two week competition in one place to occur every 2 or 4 years for 2 or 3 weeks. That would be the death of it as a meaningful compitition which engaged the crowds.

Shvedbarilescu
Apr 22nd, 2007, 03:40 AM
In the US, all of tennis is troubled.


So true. :lol:

Alicia Rocks
Apr 22nd, 2007, 03:53 AM
I like it the way it is :shrug:

SvetaPleaseWin.
Apr 22nd, 2007, 06:00 AM
i think its alright as is-its better with the semis and finals split up IMO
the problem is that no-one gives a damn about it unless they're big fans of tennis (like us :) ). i dont see that changing even if they did only do it once every 2 years or whatever-tennis aint as popular as football so to compare it the football world cup is stupid.
and with regard to players participation-at the end of their career who is gonna care if they helped win a fed cup or davis cup? grand slams are more important-thats just how it is
most of the stadiums are full so :shrug: someone must care

IceSkaTennisFan
Apr 22nd, 2007, 06:23 AM
Some of the average tennis fans like me don't even really care much about Davis/Fed Cup b/c there's just not enough coverage and marketing of the event. Tennis is my favorite sport, btw. I like Jim Courier's idea for the two Cups, but I'm not sure how that would help the scheduling if there would still be prelims, even with the competition being every other year. I think Fed/Davis Cup should be every other year and should be held following slams giving players enough time to regroup for them. There needs to be more advertising/coverage for it in the US and top players should be required to participate.

AlwaysGraf
Apr 22nd, 2007, 11:28 AM
I'm obsessed with tennis and I couldn't care less about fed cup-It's just so boring, and how can I as a fan become interested if I sense that the players don't really care either. As for WTT-I don't even know how it works, who plays, -is it staged just in america! I don't know-I don't care :)

keirana332
Apr 22nd, 2007, 01:37 PM
i think this year the participation of top players in fed cup has improved, be it because of the 08 olympicc or not and consequently there is more interest than in past years but i agree that changes need to be made to make it more appealing to top players and audiences.