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Four decades later, Fed Cup not a smash hit yet
By Douglas Robson, special for USA TODAY

Forty years after Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman — sometimes called the "Queen Mother of American tennis" — realized her idea of staging a women's team competition similar to the men's Davis Cup, her vision is struggling to find its place on the sport's landscape.

Can't name the brainchild of Wightman, an early-20th-century U.S. Open champion? You're not alone, and that's the problem.

It's called Fed Cup.

"To be frank, most people don't even know what Fed Cup is," laments Billie Jean King, the U.S. team captain.

This weekend a U.S. squad led by world Nos. 1 and 3 Serena and Venus Williams takes on the Czech Republic at the 6,000-seat Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass. — not exactly Madison Square Garden in New York.

The decision to host the first-round, best-of-five match in Lowell, an old mill town about 30 miles northwest of Boston with a population just over 100,000, is indicative of the situation.

Major markets have been unable to support Fed Cup in larger stadiums so organizers focus on second-tier cities where regional interest is strong.

The only broadcast coverage? The Tennis Channel, a tennis-only cable station using the event for its soft launch.

Hatched in 1963, the Federation Cup (since shortened to Fed Cup) has had a history of fits and starts that has confused the public and undermined the brand. Format and calendar changes, rule adjustments, order-of-play alterations and lackluster player participation also have made the event a marketing quagmire.

As King says, "We've tried a lot of different things. We need to settle in."

It's not that women's tennis is unpopular. In the USA, the women have out-rated the men in six of the last eight Grand Slam tournament finals.

"Given that women's tennis is one of the hottest worldwide sports today, it deserves a better platform for its international competition," says Arlen Kantarian, chief executive of professional tennis for the United States Tennis Association.

Financial and player support also has lagged. The International Tennis Federation, which owns and runs the event, budgets about $2.7 million in compensation and operating costs to national federations for Fed Cup, vs. about $11 million for Davis Cup. Overscheduled players, who already compete 11 months of the year, often skip it, and others only participate once every four years to ensure their eligibility for the Olympics.

Still, things are looking up for this weekend's match, thanks to the crossover drawing power of the Williams sisters. Tickets for the two-day match sold out in less than seven hours after going on sale to the public, a U.S. Fed Cup record. And excitement is high, organizers say.

The USA — champion 17 times, more than any other nation — is expected to make quick work of a Czech team whose top player is No. 44 Daja Bedanova. Rounding out the U.S. squad is No. 19 Meghann Shaughnessy and No. 26 Alexandra Stevenson, making her Fed Cup debut. It's the first time the U.S. team is made up of predominantly African-Americans.

"Our goal is to bring the Cup back," says King, whose memory of last year's first-round exit to Austria remains fresh. "It's non-negotiable."

I hope this hasn't been posted yet. :)
 

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eshell said:
Four decades later, Fed Cup not a smash hit yet



"Our goal is to bring the Cup back," says King, whose memory of last year's first-round exit to Austria remains fresh. "It's non-negotiable."
ha ha ha :devil:
 

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biggest upset in fed cup HISTORY if the US lose
 

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Its not becuase America dont always win that its not popular, it becuase, usually countrys put in second rate teams, with the top players absent. I think this could change this year.
 

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The "problem" with Fed Cup is that the tennis community as a whole tries to make it a second-rate event. Look at the stat in the article: less than 1/4th the operating capital given out for Davis Cup.

Constantly changing formats. Lack of support from national federations. (F.E. the USTA has, in some recent ties, bought up 10,000 or more Davis Cup tickets to ensure capacity crowds. They've never done that for Fed Cup. And they don't provide the same level of support personnel for Fed Cup teams.) Tennis writers which, on the whole, have tremendous disdain for women's tennis, and refuse to cover their nation's Fed Cup ties, even though they'll go halfway around the world to cover Davis Cup.

Where's the big hoopla and hype from the ITF on the 40th anniversary of Fed Cup's creation? Why hasn't the USTA gotten the US Fed Cup ties on TV (on something other than The Emperor's New Channel)?

And it doesn't help to have factual inaccuracies in articles like this. Hazel Wightman created the Wightman Cup, not the Fed Cup. Players can't just play once every 4 years to maintain Olympic elgibility.

Want to boost Fed Cup's profile? Have the ITF and member nations give it the same amount of support (financial and otherwise) as Davis Cup, and bring in tennis writers who recognize that there are more than 5 players on the women's tour. Put pressure on the tennis community to give Fed Cup more respect, and it will spill over to the public.
 

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Yes the format always changes. It's pathetic that they move to home/away then round robins then a combination of both. You can't build reputation by constant change.

Also I think last year no country wanted to host the semis because no one was sure that if they put in their bids then their country would be involved.

It's stuffing around like this that cheapens the event also.

But as you say Brian promotion of this event can only come from money, exposure and a concept the public can follow. And yes... top player support....
 

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Brian Stewart said:
Want to boost Fed Cup's profile? Have the ITF and member nations give it the same amount of support (financial and otherwise) as Davis Cup, and bring in tennis writers who recognize that there are more than 5 players on the women's tour. Put pressure on the tennis community to give Fed Cup more respect, and it will spill over to the public.
Think it's a bit of a chicken-egg scenario myself: it needs money and support to grow, but it won't get that because there's not enough interest to make it worthwhile. And the press won't cover it if there's no interest, but there can't be any interest if there's no coverage.

The Fed Cups real problem is that it's an artificial tournament. It really was a case of someone saying, the guys have this, we should have it too. It might be forty years old, but it has no real history.

Also, I don't know about other countries, but I really don't see the press taking any interest in the Fed Cup till Britain has a team capable of winning - look at the coverage given to snooker, curling (!) and World Superbikes (as opposed to Moto GP) - and I can't imagine that happening for a while yet.
 

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Well...one thing's for sure. They have one HELL of a website!! It's awesome! Galleries, live scoring, very updated articles after every match, past results dating back to god knows when. Love it! :D
 
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