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Davis Cup Not Just Any Tradition

March 11, 2010

Davis Cup isn’t all about the big players. Davis Cup, unlike any other large tennis event, doesn’t rely on names like Federer, Nadal, and Murray to draw crowds and attract viewers. In fact, it doesn’t use Federer’s name at all. Instead, Davis Cup is the one time when singles and doubles combine to create the country’s best tennis. Davis Cup makes tennis a team sport.

Yet Davis Cup cops a lot of slack. It has been recently proposed that it be abandoned in favour of a competition that works more like a world cup. It has the support of Federer, Djokovic, and Murray, amongst others. It would be played once every two years which would shorten the season and, apparently, solve all the world’s problems. If only Davis Cup wasn’t played four times a year, critics say, Nadal’s knees would be fine and Djokovic wouldn’t struggle from breathing problems. A World Cup would have all matches played in the same country at the same time every two years. Sure, it would scrap the tactics of picking court surfaces and it wouldn’t help to bring tennis to countries all over the world, but at least no one would have to endure the over one hundred year old tradition of Davis Cup.

Of course, no one actually has to endure it. Davis Cup is not compulsory. Those who do not value it as highly as their own tennis paths can choose to opt out. If they think Davis Cup means too many matches a year or there is no need for them to play, they don’t have to. Andy Murray didn’t step in for the much maligned Great Britain, and Roger Federer hasn’t played a first round match for Switzerland since 2004. This may sound very negative, but the truth is, Davis Cup fans hardy notice the difference.

What results is a team of players to whom Davis Cup means just as much as a Grand Slam. There was nothing quite like the unbridled joy evident on the face of David Nalbandian, who carried the Argentinian team to victory over Sweden this year. Juan Martin del Potro may have been sidelined with injury, but it didn’t matter in the end. Novak Djokovic brought his unheralded fighting spirit to the table again in Serbia’s win over the U.S.A. His air jumps and fist pumps exceeded his emotional displays shown in the previous week’s Dubai tournament. Bernard Tomic described his debut experience in playing Davis Cup for Australia as a dream come true. The lack of Lleyton Hewitt didn’t make a difference. Clearly the top players care a lot about Davis Cup. Now why would anyone want to get rid of a tradition like that?

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