New Davis Cup proves exciting but calendar still a challenge

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MADRID — Despite its flaws, the new Davis Cup got a passing grade on its first edition, with its modern look being accompanied by plenty of excitement on the court.

But despite the mostly positive reviews, the future success of the revamped tournament still depends on making it fit on a crowed tennis calendar that already has two other team competitions trying to establish themselves – the Laver Cup and the ATP Cup.

The top-ranked players on tour – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – don’t think the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup can co-exist. Both suggest a merger would be the best solution.

“I don’t see two World Cups in one month on our calendar. That’s something that I personally don’t see,” said Nadal, who on Sunday led Spain to its sixth Davis Cup title with a win over first-time finalist Canada.

The inaugural ATP Cup, to be played with 24 teams, will take place in January in Australia. The Davis Cup debuted in Madrid with 18 teams.

“We have an opportunity to finally have a great competition,” Nadal said. “There is no other way than have only one big, big competition. I think Davis Cup is the right name because it’s part of the history of our sport. And it will be great if we are able to put everything together.”

Djokovic talked about the possibility of a “Super Cup” of tennis.

“Scheduling was always an issue, for both ATP Cup and Davis Cup,” he said. “An idea was the merge between the two. Looking long-term, I personally don’t think that the two events can co-exist six weeks apart. It’s just a little bit too congested.”

The International Tennis Federation signed a 25-year partnership with the Kosmos group co-founded by Barcelona star Gerard Pique to make the Davis Cup more attractive and lucrative. It transformed the year-long tournament into a one-week event played in a World Cup-style format in a single venue.

“We have to remember, there’s 119-year history that the Davis Cup has and a very important place within tennis and the calendar. The calendar is the challenge. It always has been,” ITF president David Haggerty said. “But again, we can only control what we can control, and that is Davis Cup. And we’re doing the best that we can. And again, we’ll sit down with other tennis bodies, but can’t make any promises on what might happen with other events.”

Pique said the opinion of players like Nadal and Djokovic needs to be heard.

“It makes no sense to have right now two different competitions that are very similar,” he said. “In the next few months I think we will start talking again with the ATP. And I hope in the next few months we can announce something.”

Pique said talks with Roger Federer, who co-owns the Laver Cup event that is played between European and world teams, have not advanced recently.

“It’s his baby, his competition, and he wants to protect (it). And I totally understand,” Pique said. “What we will try to do is to try to put the Davis Cup obviously in another level because we are talking about 119 years of history. You cannot compare both events. But we will try to do the best we can for our competition to make it as big as possible.”

Kosmos and the ITF hope to play the new Davis Cup in September instead of making it the season-ending tournament in November. Djokovic said that would make the competition more attractive to players.

“It is the last week of the year. It’s definitely a tough schedule for a lot of players,” Djokovic said. “It’s really difficult because you have a whole season and then you have to push yourself for another week and then eventually play singles, doubles every day.”

EXCITING FORMAT

The Davis Cup new format, with ties being decided in three matches on the same day, created exciting action in Madrid, giving teams small margins for errors.

Previously, the Davis Cup ties were decided over three days in four singles matches and one doubles.

“The format makes things very close,” Nadal said. “You make a mistake in one singles match and in the doubles anything can happen. So things are beautiful that way. But at the same time, for the best teams, it makes things dangerous.”

The change gave extra importance to the doubles matches, which in the old format were played in-between two singles matches.

Five of the seven ties in the knockout rounds of the Davis Cup Finals were decided in the doubles matches.

“For us, it’s cool to get the opportunity to potentially play those deciding matches and, you know, doubles be the discipline that’s deciding whether who goes home with the Davis Cup trophy or not,” British player Jamie Murray said.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.