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Davis Cup organizers downplay criticism from French players

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MADRID — Despite renewed complaints from France’s players about the upcoming changes to the Davis Cup, the organizers of the revamped tennis tournament are adamant that everything will soon be better.

Javier Alonso, the CEO of the company behind the new competition, spoke to The Associated Press two days after France’s Davis Cup team lashed out at the changes being made to the traditional tournament. Lucas Pouille even said he would boycott the competition.

“There are several reasons why there is a negative perception in France,” Alonso said. “If France hadn’t made it to the finals these last few years, the perception there would be different.

“France also is a particular case because the French federation is richer, having a Grand Slam, a Masters (event) and many other tournaments. Other federations are not like that. There are some countries that don’t want to host matches because they would lose money if they did.”

France hosted this year’s final, losing to Croatia 3-1. It was the team’s second straight final appearance, and third in five years.

The new format will be an 18-team tournament played over a week in a single venue, with the first two editions being hosted by Madrid on an indoor hard court at the Magic Box arena, which already hosts the Madrid Masters.

The revamped competition was developed in a partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos, the investment group founded by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique. The ITF says the changes will help increase revenue for the national federations.

Besides the French, others have also complained about the new format. Among those showing opposition was top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who said the Davis Cup would conflict with the ATP Cup, a newly created team competition. Roger Federer has said he does not intend to play in the new Davis Cup event, but Rafael Nadal has already confirmed his presence.

Alonso said he was not too concerned about top players not committing to the new competition.

“I’m not worried, but we are working to try to show that these changes were needed and that it will be good for the players to come to Madrid and play,” he said. “First, we need to know which teams will qualify, then we can start talking to the players to try to convince them. Right now we have a lot of people talking and they may not even qualify.”

Organizers said the new format is supposed to alleviate the calendar by decreasing the number of dates allocated to the Davis Cup, which currently is played over four weekends throughout the year. The new event would be decided in November after a qualification round in February.

“What we are doing is trying to solve a point of conflict for the players,” Alonso said. “We have taken three to four weeks from the calendar.”

Alonso also said plans to include the women’s Fed Cup in the new format would be considered in a second phase of the project.

He said the third edition of the men’s tournament is expected to be played in the United States.

Djokovic wins World Sportsman of the Year at Laureus World Sports Awards

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MONACO  — Novak Djokovic, Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn and the France national soccer team were among the winners at the Laureus World Sports Awards, with Woods claiming the Comeback Award 19 years after he was first recognized.

Djokovic matched Usain Bolt’s record by being named World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He also earned the honor in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Woods, who won the inaugural World Sportsman of the Year award in 2000, won the Tour Championship in September for his 80th PGA Tour title and his first since August 2013.

Vonn, who retired during the recent Alpine skiing world championships , took home the Spirit of Sport Award, which is given to an athlete for relentless dedication to his or her career, and France was honored for winning the World Cup in July.

Simone Biles was named World Sportswoman of the Year for winning four gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the gymnastics world championships. Naomi Osaka won the Breakthrough Award for winning the U.S. Open and Chloe Kim was named the World Action Sportsperson of the Year.

The awards were given in recognition of outstanding sports performance in 2018.

Wawrinka loses to Monfils in first final since knee surgeries

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka’s rebuilt knee couldn’t quite carry him to the title in Rotterdam on Sunday.

Wawrinka lost his first final since his comeback a year ago from left knee surgeries, succumbing 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to Gael Monfils of France at the ABN AMRO World Tournament.

It was the Frenchman’s eighth career title.

“I tried a couple of times here. I lost the final in 2016,” Monfils told Dutch national broadcaster NOS courtside. He said it was special to win a tournament that his idol, Arthur Ashe, also won. Ashe won back-to-back titles in Rotterdam in 1975 and ’76.

Unseeded Wawrinka reached the final by beating top-seeded Kei Nishikori in three sets on Saturday.

But the Swiss finally ran out of steam in the final set as Monfils stepped up his game.

“In the third set I was a little bit more aggressive and I go a bit more for my shots, I served bigger and that helped me a lot,” Monfils said.

Wawrinka was going for his 17th career title and second in Rotterdam, after winning in 2015.

It was his first final since the 2017 French Open, where he previously met Monfils in the fourth round.

Monfils also needed three sets to overcome fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals, but outlasted Wawrinka in a match that took 1 hour, 44 minutes.

After they shared the first two sets, Monfils was more consistent than Wawrinka in the decisive third.

Already trailing 4-2, Wawrinka hit three unforced errors to lose the seventh game and allow Monfils to serve out the match.