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.

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.