EXCLUSIVE – Leon Smith believes London could be the perfect city to host the Davis Cup

Kevin Palmer
Leon Smith Great Britain Davis Cup captain

Great Britain Davis Cup captain Leon Smith believes London could be the perfect city to host a future edition competition, as he admitted he misses some aspect of the team tennis event.

After London’s 02 Arena ended a highly successful 11-year stint as the host venue for the ATP Finals, Smith suggests the venue could now provide an ideal setting for an end-of-year tennis party in front of huge crowds.

With the Laver Cup already coming to the 02 Arena in 2022, 2015 Davis Cup-winning skipper Smith is eyeing up the prospect of London hosting the biggest tennis team event of them all.

“The 02 Arena has been a great place for the ATP Finals, it is tried and tested as a tennis venue, so what an amazing event that would be if we could host the Davis Cup final in London when Madrid’s run hosting the event comes to an end,” he told Tennis365 in an exclusive interview.

“We have the Laver Cup coming to the UK as well and I think this country is a great destination for something like that. 

“The hosting of the ATP Finals has been such a massive success. Ask any of the players and they absolutely love that venue, so it would be great to get it there if we can.”

Organisers cancelled the 2020 Davis Cup finals in June, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept through Europe and was especially devastating in the proposed host city of Madrid.

At the time of the cancellation, it seemed like the only option open to organisers and yet tennis managed to resume in the second half of the year as both the US Open and French Open was played, as well as the ATP Final in London.

It sparked suggestions that the Davis Cup could have gone ahead after all, yet Smith suspects it may have been hard to an event of such scale on last month.

“Other events have gone ahead indoors, so it feels like we could have done it, but I’m not so sure,” Smith continued. “The prevalence of Covid-19 in Spain would have been a big part of the decision making, with the numbers and severity they had there.

“It’s such a big event with so many stakeholders, so there are a number of factors that went into making the early decision.

“Also, if we did play the Davis Cup this year, it may have been without a crowd and I’m not sure how that would have come across on TV. Fans play such a big part in an event like the Davis Cup and it would have been strange to play without them.”

The traditional home and away format of the Davis Cup was dispensed with in 2019 as a new-look end of season event was staged in Madrid, with all qualifying nations converging on one venue to compete for the famous old trophy.

Many voiced their disapproval for the huge change in format, with Smith conceding aspects of the old format can never be replaced. 

“I went into it very open-minded last year,” he added. “We had such amazing experiences in the old format, as other countries had. You are always going to miss that. You can’t replace the ties we had in Glasgow, with close to 10,000 people and the noise was amazing. The same was true when we play the final against Belgium in Ghent in 2015, which was the best atmosphere imaginable. 

“At the same time, I know as captain that it is challenging for players to have three or four times a year. It is six or eight weeks of the year and in a tight and packed tennis calendar, I understand that there had to be a change. 

“It is a big change and the big thing is missing home and away matches. That atmosphere creates something special and the group running the Davis Cup are aware that they need to try and generate that atmosphere in this new format.”

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