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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, November 26, 2021

 
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Former No. 1 and Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt says organizers will be "selling the soul of the Davis Cup" if it makes a rumored move to the Middle East.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

As a player and captain, Lleyton Hewitt has poured his heart into Davis Cup.

The former world No. 1 charges the ITF will be "selling the soul of the Davis Cup" if it makes a rumored move to the Middle East.

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Following Australia's 3-0 Davis Cup defeat to Croatia in Turin, Italy, Hewitt was asked about changes to the Davis Cup format—and rumors the longest annual international team competition could move to Abu Dhabi. Davis Cup owner Kosmos is reportedly considering a lucrative five-year pact to stage the Davis Cup Finals in Abu Dhabi.

Hall of Famer Hewitt blasted the proposed move as well as Davis Cup dropping traditional best-of-five-set matches for best-of-three sets and forgoing the traditional home-and-away ties for the current Davis Cup Finals format staged in Madrid, Turin and Innsbruck.

“I’ve only heard a rumor but I think it’s ridiculous, it’s not what Davis Cup is about,” Hewitt told the media. “The Davis Cup was held in the highest regard, up there with the pinnacle of our sport in tennis—with matches played over five sets.

“We threw that out the door and then we’ve thrown the home and away out the door as well. “Playing a qualifying tie here or there, best of three sets, is not the same as having home and away, main draw matches over the year."




Hewitt, a member of Australia's Davis Cup championship teams in 1999 and 2003, said moving to the Middle East could mark the death knell for Davis Cup.

The two-time Grand Slam champion believes it would diminish the competition's unique spirit and dissuade top players from competing as many would not want to travel to the Middle East in November with the Australian Open looming in January.

“So if they’re going and selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East for another five years, I think it’s ridiculous, and they’re really killing the competition," Hewitt told the media. “I’ve been pretty vocal about the whole thing for the last four or five years now. This is a wonderful stadium here tonight, but it’s not a massive crowd, it’s not what Davis Cup is about.

“Some of my greatest memories were playing in Davis Cup semis or finals in front of packed houses and it didn’t matter if it was in Australia or away, the atmosphere was incredible."

Hewitt's latest criticism reinforces remarks he made when Davis Cup reformation was announced in 2019. A plan spearheaded by ITF president David Haggerty and investment group Kosmos, led by former FC Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique, reformed Davis Cup culminating with the 18-nation, week-long Davis Cup finale each November.

Incensed by his belief an ex-soccer star is calling the shots reforming Davis Cup, Hewitt said changes are too radical.

Tennis Express

Hewitt favors Davis Cup’s traditional home-and-away ties and best-of-five-set matches. Reforms reduce matches to best-of-three-sets and virtually eliminates the home-and-away format—except for the February qualifying round.

"They have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other and they are going to have to deal with it," Hewitt said.

"Now we are getting run by a Spanish football player and he knows nothing about tennis and that is ridiculous. His group has bought into the ITF and they are basically running the ITF—a soccer league is the main sponsor of the Davis Cup, and that to me is mind boggling.”


 

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