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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday November 27, 2021

Novak Djokovic has given his thoughtful take on the current state of Davis Cup, and unlike Lleyton Hewitt who railed against rumors that the ITF may be close to locking up a deal to hold the Davis Cup Finals at Abu Dhabi for five years, Djokovic takes a more nuanced view.

Tennis Express

“I understand why people reacted that way because traditionally we were used to having Davis Cup in a certain way,” Djokovic said of the competition, which was given a complete overhaul in 2019. “I have said few years ago that, in my opinion, the format, ideal format, is somewhere in between where we were two years ago and where we were before the format was changed.”

More: Hewitt on Rumored Davis Cup Move: Killing the Competition

Like most critics, Djokovic says he misses the warmth and passion of home and away ties, something that is lost for all but the home team under the new format, where 18 teams are split into three host cities, where they vie for a chance to reach the eight-team final, which is held in Madrid next week.

But Djokovic adds that he does not want to go back to the old format, where teams took three weeks a year on the road to the Davis Cup. Djokovic said it was too tough to work in that type of a commitment to an already stacked playing schedule.

“I did not like that you play so many different ties throughout the year, kind of having those weeks,” he said. “I just didn't feel that the format, the schedule, was really in favor of players. I was proponent for change. I was supporting the change. But I didn't like the format we had two years ago where you have only one hosting nation hosting all 16 or 18 teams, whatever it was.”

Djokovic says he likes the current format, with three teams hosting group stages.

“I like the fact that now there are three different countries that are able to host at least group stages,” he said, adding that it might even be smart to double the number of host nations. “I would say why not more? Why not have six different countries host one group of three teams? We lost that with the change of format, the possibility for many countries in the World Group to host the tie. I think that is something that people have not reacted well to, and I understand. You need a Davis Cup competition for development of your own national tennis. I would definitely support more diversity in terms of the hosting nations.”

Djokovic says that he doesn’t mind the finals being an eight-team event at a central location. Nor would he mind if the event shifted to the Middle East.

Something that Hewitt, for the record, stands firmly against.

“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."

Djokovic: Do we follow the money or the tradition?

Djokovic keeps an open mind about the event. Clearly he’s a big supporter – why else would he still be playing in late November and early December after such a taxing season from an emotional and physical perspective? – but he doesn’t seem to be locked into any one way of thinking.

“I understand that you want to have the final four or final eight in a certain location,” he said. “This is something that I personally don't have anything against. Now when it comes to location, whether it's Abu Dhabi or anywhere else, that's something we have to wait and see officially when it comes out and then discuss.”

Djokovic says there are many factors to take into account when it comes to the future of the event. Tradition and economics need to be balanced.

“Now it's not official yet. As I said, there is a lot of interest to bring Davis Cup or any other big tennis competition or sports competition to the Middle East where economically they're very strong and they can finance the big demands that you have for an organization of such an important event. Now the question is whether you follow the money, so to say, or you follow the tradition, or you find a balance between the two.

“That's always the big question on anybody's mind. Of course, there are a lot of differences. People think one way or another. Some people think we should improve, that we should look forward, that we should progress. Some people think we should stick to what the Davis Cup as a competition or as a format was before. I'm somewhere in between. I think you need to respect the tradition and the history, and you need to stick to the things that are recognizable that make this competition so important for the sport. At the same time you need to move forward and find new ways to improve the competition.”