The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will be open to player inputs on the Davis Cup format, but changes effected in the last few years need time to settle, doubles great Mark Woodforde told Reuters on Friday after Novak Djokovic called for an overhaul.
Djokovic said ahead of Serbia’s group stage meeting with Spain that more players had to be consulted to tweak the current Finals structure, where 16 teams are divided into four groups based in four cities, with the knockout rounds in Malaga.
The world number one added more balance was needed though he had supported changing the old format of home-and-away ties over a few days every year, which was scrapped in 2019 after the ITF struck a deal with investment group Kosmos that has since ended.
“I’ve seen some of those comments Djokovic made and I think that’s been the intention of the ITF and the Davis Cup Committee all along, to have consultation with players,” Woodforde, the Davis Cup Committee Chair, told Reuters via phone.
“But ... the ITF isn’t necessarily a company that’s player specific. The ATP is more player oriented, the ITF or Davis Cup is about teams and countries and that’s also a priority for the Davis Cup Committee.”
Australian Woodforde said going from the old format which had five rubbers and best-of-five sets matches over three days was always going to be a big change.
“Sometimes when you make a change it takes a while to settle. I don’t feel we’ve had any clear time,” the 17-time Grand Slam doubles champion said.
“We brought in these changes supported by the players and national associations and then COVID struck. It’s not just the Davis Cup, it affected the tennis world and a lot of sports.
“We went through that and the Kosmos relationship ended and I don’t feel we’ve had a steadying pathway we all envisioned and planned for. We take on board, we’ve had revisions even over the years since we brought about the change of format.”
Ties are being held at Bologna, Manchester, Valencia and Split this week and some fans online have criticised smaller crowds when the host nations are not in action, but Woodforde said that was understandable.
“We’re conscious of the format and there’s going to be ... let’s say, a softer day,” he said. “The crowds in Manchester on days that Britain are playing are fantastic.
“It’s the same in all of the host cities. I think the Davis Cup is probably more judged on those days where the host country isn’t playing.”
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