Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray call for big changes in tennis – but they may be disappointed
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray believe tennis authorities need to act quickly to change the format of an event that continues to be a huge talking point in tennis.
Murray was part of the Great Britain team that pulled off a remarkable Davis Cup win against France in front of a sell-out crowd in Manchester on Sunday, booking their place in the Final 8 in Malaga in November.
Yet the format that sees one host nation and three other teams playing on foreign soil has led to a lot of matches being played in front of sparse crowds, with tickets for ties that do not feature the home side hard to sell.
Murray expressed his views on the issue in a media briefing and believes the current format for the Davis Cup is not a long-term solution.
“I was on the ATP player council when the initial discussions were had about this format, not one person on the council supported it,” the former world No 1.
“We told that to (ITF president) David Haggerty and to the ITF at the time. We were told that would be taken into consideration and then literally two days later it was announced they were changing the format.
“We’re fortunate here because we get to play all of the matches in a brilliant atmosphere, great crowd. It is a shame when France and Australia, two of the biggest tennis nations, they love their Davis Cup, and they’re playing in front of what feels like an empty stadium.
“It feels wrong. I think the format will have to change if it’s going to be successful again. All the players loved the home-and-away ties, I think the fans loved the home-and-away ties as well. Hopefully there’s a way we can get it back to that.”
Novak Djokovic also called for a change to the Davis Cup, after he helped Serbia reach the Final 8 in Spain.
“The format needs an overhaul, of course, but not being in the ITF I can’t tell you what’s going on,” said the 24-time Grand Slam champion.
“I hope they consult the players for the change because they never consult us. I think players should participate much more in these types of changes, we all have to sit down together and talk about the future. If the ITF doesn’t do things right, I honestly don’t know what will happen to this tournament.
“For the sake of tennis and its history, this competition must survive, because it is the longest-running team competition we have. There is nothing more important than representing your country, so we’ll see how they redefine the format.”
After Britain’s 2-1 victory over Switzerland on Friday, Swiss tennis great Stan Wawrinka made his feelings on the current Davis Cup format clear, after his nation played in front of sparse crowds in Manchester.
“We see the difference between today and three days ago – it’s not normal,” he stated.
“I played some Challenger tournaments this year and there were way more people and a way better atmosphere than when we played France.
“You have to try new things, that’s for sure, but it’s been quite a clear disaster.
“This company, they finish a 25-year deal after five years so that means something is wrong. And the people who took this decision are still deciding for the future of Davis Cup.”
Yet Davis Cup chair and Australian doubles legend Mark Woodforde has insisted change may not be coming next year, as he offered up these comments in response to ongoing criticism.
“We’re fully aware that some players will say, ‘Why don’t we go back to that home-and-away format?’ That format was not working. That’s why the change came about. The old format was killing Davis Cup,” declared Woodforde.
“We had nations telling the ITF they were unhappy, it needed to change. We had our title sponsor telling us we need to make changes, we need to keep the competition alive, we need to make it fresh.
“The home-and-away format had been an integral part of the competition historically, we haven’t got rid of it, it’s still there, it’s still alive in the lower groups as well. We think the changes we’ve made are positive.
“It’s in the minority some of those voices, some of them are politically motivated, which is unnecessary. Stan created a bit of a furore with filming the stands. We’re always welcome to having feedback, it’s unfortunate he did it in such a public way.”
“It’s challenging,” he said. “It really does make it look like we’re not doing a great thing for the competition, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“In 2024 the competition will remain as is. We feel this is the format where we can see mileage with it.
“I don’t think there is a format that we are going to ever have 100 per cent thumbs up from the players and the nations. Through our cooperation with the ATP we are doing an assessment looking at the options. I think we leave the door open for tweaks.”
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