August 9, 2020

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Davis Cup Finals latest event to be cancelled

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The Davis Cup Finals in Madrid weren’t going to be held until the end of November.

But five months ahead of the second edition of the revamped, historic team competition, organizers Kosmos have already cancelled it.

As well, there were 24 Group I and II ties scheduled for September; those also have been cancelled. Another 76 nations involved in Group III and IV ties also will not play this year.

What it means is that the 18 teams that had qualified for Madrid will just see that qualification roll over until 2021.

The decision, made by Kosmos Tennis and the International Tennis Federation, comes “following a three-month review of the considerable logistical and regulatory challenges that have arisen as a result of the pandemic and all potential hosting scenarios with the health and safety of all involved of paramount importance.”

As a side issue, the Fed Cup finals, which were considered “postponed” after the decision to cancel the April event earlier in the pandemic, are officially cancelled for 2020. The event, to be staged in Budapest, Hungary, was going to morph into a format similar to the “new” Davis Cup for the first time this year.

The pandemic is just the latest blow for the supposedly “new and improved” event, which went 118 years as a “home-and-away” series where nations could at least hope to stage the event in front of their own wildly partisan crowds.

That energy made for some unforgettable encounters.

New format beleaguered from start

Gerard Piqué, the head of Kosmos, leads the company’s effort to re-imagine the historic Davis Cup competition. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of good news.

The new format, with 18 teams in one place – the Caja Magica in Madrid, where the ATP hopes to stage a Masters 1000 tournament in September – did not capture the imagination of fans who were unwilling or unable to travel long distances from their home countries.

Other than host nation Spain, which had superstar Rafael Nadal on the squad, attendance was an abject failure even if the players themselves were very well treated and cashed big cheques.

“The challenges in hosting a mass gathering of this size on an international scale at an indoor venue are considerable due to the pandemic, both in the current and the anticipated climate,” the statement continued.

The cancellation deals another blow to Kosmos, which promised untold riches to the ITF in exchange for taking over the event – with some of those riches then onpassed to the national federations who voted in favour of a major change that was far from unanimous.

With big start-up costs, the first edition of the competition had to be a big blow, financially. And now, with no second edition at all, the pain will be even more acute. It does remove the necessity to search for another country willing to host the third edition, as only the first two were contracted to be held in Madrid.

And, it goes without saying, that annual payout to the ITF and to its member nations would not be made. And that hurts tennis from the ITF level all the way down the line – to national federations already reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

Canada reached the Davis Cup final last year, losing to host nation Spain. They won’t be able to return to try to go one step further. And, for a lot of players, it was a guaranteed major payday at the end of a season in which many have barely earned a pittance.

Official press-release quotes

Gerard Pique, Kosmos Tennis President: “It’s a huge disappointment for all of us that the Davis Cup Finals will not be held in 2020. We don’t know how the situation will develop in each qualified nation, or if restrictions in Spain will remain sufficiently eased, as such it is impossible to predict the situation in November and guarantee the safety of those travelling to Madrid. This postponement has no long-term bearing on our collective ambitions for the Davis Cup. The ITF and Kosmos Tennis look forward to delivering an outstanding competition in 2021, when it is safe and feasible to do so.”

David Haggerty, ITF President: “This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk. It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, National Associations and fans. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Kosmos Tennis in order to deliver a fantastic competition next year”.