In a decision that comes as a surprise to few, the ITF (and Kosmos Tennis!) announced Thursday that … Madrid will host the first two editions of the “new” Davis Cup finals.
The 2019 venue will be a familiar one: the Caja Mágica, home of the Madrid Open in May, during the spring clay-court season.
The 2020 event venue has not been decided. It will either be the Caja Mágica, or the WiZink Center.
(Per the ITF and Kosmos tennis: the finals will be hosted in partnership with the Ayuntamiento de Madrid, the city’s council, and the Comunidad de Madrid, the regional governing body).
The Davis Cup Steering Committee made the decision. The Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland was the original proposed location on an announced three-year deal that also included the Fed Cup to begin in 2018.
After the arrival of Kosmos Tennis and soccer player Gerard Piqué (and some Asian-based financial backing), speculation turned to various locations in Asia.
That soon became a sub-optimal solution. Many players noted their abject lack of interest in returning to Asia for another trip at the end of a long season.
The potential candidates (to create at least the semblance of competition) then were narrowed to Lille, France and Madrid. Both counties voted “yes” on the Davis Cup changes at the ITF’s annual general meeting in Orlando in August.
It was even reported at the time that the Spanish federation representative hitched a ride on Kosmos founder Gerard Piqué’s private jet to get to the vote.
“High standard of proposal”
The Steering Committee noted “the high standard of proposal from both candidate cities.” At is happens, Lille will host this year’s final “traditional” Davis Cup final when France hosts Croatia.
Piqué as well as Spanish former player and coach Galo Blanco are on the Steering Committee. The other two members are ITF president David Haggerty and vice-president René Stammbach.
Stammback is the longtime president of the Swiss Tennis Federation.
Both Spain and France voted “yes” on the new Davis Cup reforms.
The quote from Haggerty:
“We are delighted to be bringing the 2019 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas finals to Madrid. The city is a fitting location to stage the highest quality tennis and great entertainment for thousands of fans from all over the world. We look forward to working with the city to realize our ambitions of elevating the Davis Cup to a new level. On behalf of the Steering Committee we thank the Ayuntamiento de Madrid and the Comunidad de Madrid, as well as Lille for their excellent proposals and professionalism during the selection process.”
Plenty of clay courts at the Caja
As a venue, the Caja Mágica is ideal. It has three show courts with retractable roofs as well as indoor and outdoor courts.
The November dates, with daytime high temperatures barely into the 50s, would preclude using the outdoor courts.
There is no indication in the press release that the event will be played on the red clay that is used during the Madrid Open. But it’s difficult to imagine they would remove all the clay and install hard courts for the week.
The ITF (and Kosmos Tennis!) haven’t specified either way, which is somewhat strange.
If that is indeed the case, it’s a move that likely won’t go over that well many of the top players. Most of them will not have been on red clay since the French Open. It also allows certain nations to have an advantage over others; a hard-court surface would be more neutral.
That surface also will make the matches (even if just best-of-three sets now) longer and more gruelling.
And following the Davis Cup, the players return right to the hard courts to begin preparing for the first four months of the 2020 season.
Will Nadal play?
Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal’s reaction to the news may well come soon.
His presence obviously would pique the interest of Spanish fans. The attendance at the Madrid Open in recent years, given the struggling Spanish economy, has been patchy.
The event comes perhaps a year or two late for several other beloved but aging Spanish stars, among them David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez.
Nadal had scheduled his 2018 season to fit in this year’s final “traditional” Davis Cup. But he ended up having to skip the World Group semifinals two weeks ago because of the recurrence of his knee injury suffered at the US Open.
Spain, by reaching the semifinals this year, has an automatic pass into next year’s grand finale. So Nadal (even if he would have to extend his season into late November) would only have to play that one week.
WiZink Center an indoor venue
The WiZink Center, according to the press release, “also has extensive experience hosting major sport and entertainment events.”
Formerly the Palacio de Deportes (and then the BarclayCard Center), the WiZink Center is a multipurpose, indoor venue. It seats about 15,000 for basketball.
But it would only have one (presumably hard) court. The new Davis Cup finals, which feature 18 nations, will need significantly more courts than that.
If the event stays in November in 2020 they would have to find several other indoor venues around the city to host matches. That would give the tournament a very scattered, fractured feel.
But perhaps they have more surprises up their sleeve.
(Photos: Wikipedia and TennisTV screenshots)