For the losers now will be later to win. For the times they are a’changin.


Is it something inherent in human nature that resists change?

It’s more than just the old truism – ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. In the end, even the most radical among us turn stagnant. It’s the inescapable ending of every reformist government that they eventually get caught in their own myths and traditions.

So much more so in tennis.

Perhaps because it’s a sport that comes with so much prestige and romanticism. The conservatism in tennis sometimes play out in a quaint way – Roger’s jacket and Wimbledon’s middle Sunday are reminders of a bygone era that would never entirely be ‘bygone’.

Other times, a sport that resists change means that certain parts of its heritage become the dust-covered books sitting in the back section of a library: mostly unloved … except by the proud nerds or dedicated researcher.

But even the most ardent defenders of the Davis Cup cannot deny that the tournament has lost its prestige. Other than the dedicated tennis followers, not many know or understand the tournament. Even fewer in my generation appreciates its history and past glories.

And why would they? Even as a dedicated fan of the sport, the Davis (and Fed) Cup comes onto my radar for one weekend per every 3 or 4 months, before going away quietly into the good night. I might spare a smile or two at the happy snaps of team members united for a group victory, but no more. It matters not. It inspires none.

Evidently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. This fascinating article with the Times interviews former SEO Chairman Butch Buchholz about a pet project that he’s been working on – a revamp of the Davis and Fed Cups.

Buchholz is proposing a combined biannual event, held in one location, over 10 days and with 32 teams.

“We don’t want to run the Davis Cup, it is the ITF’s asset but unless something changes soon, we fear it will simply become a junior Davis Cup. The TV situation isn’t working, it ought to be covered worldwide and it’s not. We had a dinner here a month or so ago with 200 tennis people and not one of them could raise their hand and say who won the Davis Cup last year and who America’s first opponents were. We have to open the Davis Cup up to the world.”

“There’s a debate out there. There are many issues to sort out, the calendar for one, the potential venues, the preliminary rounds, how it would actualy work. But the ITF cannot help but acknowledge that people are thinking about it and talking about it. What happened to Davis Cup? It used to be as big if not bigger than the grand slams. Remember Frank Shields in 1931, the USTA asked him to default the Wimbledon final because he was injured and they feared he might not be fit to play Davis Cup against Britain two weeks later. Can you imagine that ever happening now?

No we can’t. But the ITF can – evidently – since they’ve comprehensively rejected the proposals. These treacherous former players and tournament organisers! Trying to wrestle control away from the ITF, OH WAIT –

“We are not working against the ITF, we went to work with them,” Buchholz says. “We aren’t going in there saying ‘we have a better idea than yours’ because they won’t buy that but we believe they must evaluate whether the Davis Cup in its present format is working and whether they are really making the most of their prime asset?

“We have to sit with the ITF and work this out. Let’s make this better for tennis, let us have tennis benefit. The ITF uses the money is makes from the Davis Cup as a means of defending the status quo but what if we came up with a business plan, with the venues sorted, the calendar sorted and the players sorted, that doubled that money?

Now you’re talking. So it could be like the Soccer World Cup, right? But wait – it’s better. It’s like the Soccer World Cup with girls. Hurrah!

“I think what you will see, if we do the combined event is that more countries will really start to pay attention to the development of both their men and their women players. It may take ten years, 15 years but countries who think they are going to be able to compete for this will start putting more into it.”

But surely, tennis isn’t ready for such a great change? What if it flops? What if the TV networks don’t cover it? What if no one gives a damn? What if the sky falls down?

“It reminds me of the position in 1967 when Herman David, the Wimbledon chairman said to the professional players like Rod Laver and Lew Hoad that they could play the championships the following year, even though the ITF fought against it tooth and nail. They wanted it to remain an amateur preserve. Wimbledon was a huge success in 1968, and the Open Era was with us. Tennis never looked back.”

No kidding. What are your thoughts on this?

Should the Davis Cup and Fed Cup soldier on and celebrate their traditions? Or do you think it’s time for a visionary to reform the tournament format so that it’s consistent with the changing nature of the media and tennis season?

If it was up to me, it’d be a no-brainer – let’s put on some Bob Dylan.

xx doots

21 responses to “For the losers now will be later to win. For the times they are a’changin.”

  1. Emma says :

    I’ve never been a particularly patriotic person myself so I’ve never really cared about Davis Cup (and certainly not ‘my’ team, Britain, shudder). I can certainly see the good points around having a condensed event held over a couple of weeks though, more of the top players would be involved. The schedule at the moment, with it cutting into the offseason, is messed up, especially as some players have to win every match to guarantee the progression of their team.

  2. FortuneCookie says :

    I really think something needs to change,no idea how viable this would actually be but my suggestion would pretty similar,a biannual tournament,one place,done over 2 weeks let’s say,but the thing that I (and I think a lot of people) would love to see is putting the men and women into the same competition…
    Obviously the thing with that is that you’re ending Davis and Fed Cup as we know it,but I think it would be great for the fans seeing the men and women interact and playing for the same cause,which almost *never* happens!I guess the mixed dubs at the Olympics will do that as well,but just to see a big team of them together instead of being in 2 competitons that are so distant from each other and the fans (and are losing all relevance!)would be so much better!
    But that’s just my 2 cents😛 whatever happens,the ITF has to stop burying it’s head in the sand and pretending that everything’s fine!

    • FortuneCookie says :

      Okay,so my idea isn’t really just similar,it’s,um,the same…😛
      Like he says,I think it’d take time to really be a success,but you have to start from somewhere!

  3. judy says :

    i think it’s time for a change. i am a serious (obsessed) tennis fan and even i have trouble following and sometimes caring about DC, especially when it’s not about USA or switzerland. i did love watching the US (roddick, blake, bryan bros and captain p mac) win DC a few years back. very exciting and inspiring!

    i think BB has some great ideas and change would certainly create better chances for the tennis stars like rafa and rog to participate more often without compromising individual careers and putting too much stress on their bodies and packed schedules. you know these guys love to represent their countries and if they’re playing and the tv coverage is consistent, the fans will come.

    i also wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the women join in as well. the hopman cup in australia for example, is a fun event to watch. guys and gals competing separately and then pairing up together. maybe they could get some ideas from there. either way, bring on positive change so fans have more ways to enjoy the sport!

  4. jfK says :

    I don’t know…it sounds like it would be a hard sell to die hard tennis fans. But something should change with scheduling at least.
    Oh and Andy Roddick linked your article on his twitter. Cool stuff.

  5. A_Gallivant says :

    I am for revamping Davis Cup because I really believe that it could be a wonderful way for countries who typically get no glory from individual players in the majors to have a moment in the sun. Just imagine the benefits of seeing your country compete with all the viewing (TV/Internet) watching. It could inspire a whole generation of tennis players. It’s sort of like the Olympics, sports you rarely attend to get their moment in the sun every four years, in this case, we’d get it once per year. Awesome!

    Come on stop making tennis an insider exclusive thing, try to strive for some inclusivity.

    • srdjana says :

      But it already does give countries a moment in the sun. And I’m pretty sure Davis Cup is highly inclusive. Is there any country with any tennis players at all that is excluded? Imagine the people of tiny Croatia watching their (my) team take out the USA?

      I really don’t care what happens to Fed Cup, though.

  6. xLienx says :

    The Davis Cup is the only way the Roger Federers and the Andy Roddicks of this world might ever come to my country to play tennis. Only therefore I’m pro Davis Cup.
    But I’m also pro change … at least if someone can assure me that not only the big countries will have the chance to host this ‘combined biannual event’.

  7. TennisAce says :

    As someone who is from a country that really does not have a Fed Cup or Davis Cup team I am all for change. I have to confess that unless my favourites are playing and I can find a live stream somewhere I really could care less who wins Fed Cup or Davis Cup (I am from Jamaica by the way). The only player that I know of is Dustin Brown🙂

  8. flo says :

    When the best players are skipping out or otherwised have to be coerced to play, it’s a problem. Quick, name the last five Davis Cup winners aside from the Spanish Armada (or Inquisition).

    • dootsiez says :

      LOL. Now that you mention it – I can only remember the US and Croatia.

    • Ch says :

      Russia at least once or twice, France??, Australia when Hewitt came back in that five setter against Fed. wasn’t a tennis fan then but I have read about the story😯

      and… uh… uh…

  9. pban says :

    Russia won it in 2006 I think ,Maratski played then….he and RAndy played an interminable 5 setter on indoor clay if I remember correctly .

  10. Mia says :

    Something like the Ryder Cup — an event held every two years. That way the winner has longer bragging rights, no?

  11. pban says :

    Spain….Rafa in his first Davis Cup defeated RAndy

  12. pban says :

    Spain….no prizes for guessing that one, with a teenaged Rafa to boot as well.

  13. srdjana says :

    Somehow I think those same top players who already “skip out” on Davis Cup would probably do the same with the so-called Tennis World Cup. Aside from Novak. Switzerland probably doesn’t have a big enough chance to win it for Fed to be interested, Spain can win without Rafa….

  14. Jenny says :

    Doots this blog got a mention on Andy Roddick’s twitter…-super envious-

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