Yesterday while hanging out with my newborn, I was watching highlights from the Davis Cup quarterfinal matchup between Switzerland and Kazakhstan on TV. And although the Switzerland team comprised mainly of Roger Federer and Stanislav Wawrinka (I believe ranked 3 and 4 in the world at the time), Kazakhstan led most of the way and just narrowly lost 3 matches to 2. And the atmosphere was football-like as usually is with Davis Cup matches. So why is it that myself (an avid tennis player and fan), casual sports fans, and even the players themselves seem to not care at all about the Davis Cup? Here are 5 suggestions (without making any drastic changes) that may help get more people interested in the World Cup equivalent of one of the most popular international sports..
Who is Davis? - With all due respect to Mr. Davis, I have no idea who this is and it doesn't immediately tell me what it is that I'm watching had I never heard of it. A quick google search tells me that this is Dwight F. Davis, a tennis player from Harvard who helped come up with the tournament format in 1899. I believe dropping the 'Davis Cup' name and sticking with simply 'The World Cup of Tennis' or 'WCT', would be a good start to getting more recognition. (The same goes for the female equivalent of the Davis Cup which is called The Fed Cup).
Make it every 4 years (a la Football World Cup) - With the tournament taking place annually over what I believe is quite spread out throughout the year as well as the qualification matchups, it seems like the Davis Cup is always going on, which takes away from its importance. If it was played once every 4 years, fans would have to wait for it and it might generate more excitement - also giving rise to new up and coming players. The location of the tournament could also be voted on, giving a chance for tennis-crazy nations in emerging countries a chance to host a major tournament. It would also put less pressure on the top players to take part on a more consistent basis. Although I'm unsure about prize money/ATP points gained from the Davis Cup (I suspect little for both), if the tournament was more popular and gained more TV viewers, the top players (and lower ranked players) may be more interested in taking part for sponsorship deals, etc. There could also be merchandise specific to the tournament (tennis shirts, balls, etc.) for each country.
Don't schedule it close to major tournaments/Grand Slams - In a recent matchup between France and Germany, Gael Monfils pulled out of his match (albeit on a very stacked France team) due to "jet lag" after returning from his U.S. Open quarterfinal matchup with Roger Federer. (Note: Roger Federer, who beat Monfils at the U.S. Open and so obviously had less recovery time from 'jet lag' than Monfils, played his match for Switzerland at the same time - sort of explains the kind of careers these two players have had) Earlier this year, India was matched up with Serbia and India was actually cheering for Djokovic to reach the final of a tournament he was playing in just so that there would be a chance he would miss one of the opening matches against India. This move would also be friendly to the injury-prone, heavy schedule stars like Nadal.
Make it more competitive - While the U.S. and Australia have won more than half of the Davis Cup tournaments thus far (although this makes sense given the dominance of these two countries in tennis over the last 100 years), we are seeing stars from more countries these days with the emergence of the likes of Serbia/Spain/etc and a U.S. Open final contested this month between a Croat and Japanese man. In the Switzerland/Kazakhstan matchup I watched, I'm pretty sure only Federer and Wawrinka played in every match for Switzerland in the Singles and Doubles (which I didn't even know was allowed). They should limit the number of matches per player to 1 or 2, so that the matchups are also decided by the countries' 3rd,4th or 5th best players. Why not also combine the men's and women's tournaments and make it a best of 7-matches matchup whereby there would be singles matches by the top men/women, mens doubles, womens doubles and a mixed-doubles match for the 7th and final deciding match if necessary.
Shorter matches - Even I do not have the patience to watch a 5-set match - no matter who is playing. This is a simple one. Keep the matches to best-of-3 sets. This also allows for the best of 5 (or 7 as I suggest above) matches to played in one day, rather than over a weekend. And the whole tournament could take place over 7-10 days. Also, make the tournament open to 32 teams instead of 16 to allow for more global interest/upsets.
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