The Davis Cup is no more. Croatia defeated France in the last-ever final as the visiting nation with Marin Cilic emerging as the hero in Lille. Now, the records and titles achieved in the international team competition will forever be preserved in tennis history. Among them Spain’s 21st century successes stand out, five Salad Bowls (Barcelona 2000, Sevilla 2004, Argentina 2008, Barcelona 2009 and Sevilla 2011) imprinted on the national psyche and celebrated among tennis fans like no other competition. No country won as many Davis Cups during the final years of the competition and yet Spain inexplicably renounced the opportunity to continue in that vein in a delirious press conference with the trophy plum on the table.
The Davis Cup has been the pinnacle of team competition in a sport that is eminently individual, a global meeting point for tennis fans who are not fanatical followers of the game. We have been treated to semi-finals and finals in bullrings and football stadiums, the ATP convincingly beating the challenge of the ITF, a lordly duel that has been a mismatch for some time; Sir Money is a powerful adversary.
Davis Cup revamp: the fans are the losers
The Davis Cup’s star has waned and the blame can be laid at the feet of one group, who should have adapted to the changing of the wind and failed to do so, and another who have prioritized business above all else. The fans are the eventual losers. No longer will we witness epic matches that make a mockery of the rankings, no more will the special atmosphere at home ties be felt, nor the additional pressure of playing as visitors. The home side’s selection of the surface as a sixth player will be a thing of the past, an element that may seem trivial but goes a long way to explaining the sharing out of titles. For many years the champion always had home advantage.
The new format of the competition being proposed by Gerard Piqué and his Kosmos group will never be the Davis Cup. Neither should it be allowed to use the name, or the beautiful trophy designed by Rowland Rhodes. The new tournament has to write its own history, one with imagination, hard work and determination. They can’t have their salad and eat it in one sitting. And it will not be an easy task, given the resistance to the new format among some of the biggest names in tennis – one of the primary reasons to rail against the defenestration of the legendary competition that we knew until last weekend. Rest in peace, Davis Cup (1900-2018).