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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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By Richard Pagliaro - The empty echo of a ball bouncing in a barren hall lent a lifeless air to the Fed Cup finals for France's Amelie Mauresmo. Last week's Fed Cup final in Madrid, Spain drew about as much interest as an igloo sale staged in the Sahara as fewer than three thousand fans showed up to witness Belgium beat Russia to capture its first Fed Cup title in history.

France fell to Russia in the Group A pool, while Belgium won Group B without losing a match. The ninth-ranked Mauresmo said the Fed Cup format creates disinterest among fans in an event devoid of atmosphere.

"The big negative point of this Fed Cup finals is the atmosphere," Mauresmo said. "We play in a very big hall. It's huge and there is very low attendance so it sounds like there is nobody there."

When host Spain was not playing in the eight-team final, attendance was sparse.

"This lack of atmosphere is of course the result of the formula chosen for these Fed Cup Finals," Mauresmo said in her journal entry posted on her official web site. "I can understand not a lot of people are interested in a match between France and the Czech Republic in Spain."

In the past, players have proposed that both the Fed Cup and Davis Cup adopt a format similar to soccer's World Cup in which competing nations play the entire event in a two-week tournament at one site rather than the current format consisting of home-and-away play spread out over the course of the year culminating in the final. Players such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have suggested a World Cup-style format could create global interest in Davis Cup, but the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of both Davis Cup and Fed Cup, has declined to fully implement such a schedule.

Last month, the ITF announced format changes for the 2002 Fed Cup. The Fed Cup World Group will expand from eight nations to 16 nations. The World Group competition will consist of two weekends of home-and-away play with the top four nations advancing to the finals, which will be contested in one country during one week. Each World Group tie will consist of four singles and one doubles match — the format Fed Cup formerly followed before changing to two singles and one doubles match this year.
 
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