LONDON (Reuters) -The International Tennis Federation (ITF) expects to announce the host cities for next year’s Davis Cup Finals before the end of this year’s event which begins on Thursday.
This year’s 18-nation competition is being staged across three cities — Madrid, Turin and Innsbruck.
The men’s team competition, which began in 1900, has undergone various changes to the format, the most recent being in 2019 when the old ‘home and away’ ties were largely scrapped and replaced by a World Cup-style finals held in Madrid.
Last year’s edition was not held because of the pandemic.
A report published in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday said the ITF, together with co-owners Kosmos, had opted to take the competition to the United Arab Emirates for five years.
The ITF issued a response to the speculation later on Thursday.
“Speculation about a host for Davis Cup Finals in the Middle East is nothing new,” an ITF spokesperson said. “The ITF Board is reviewing host cities for 2022 together with Kosmos and expect to make a decision by the end of the Finals.”
The move away from the old format home and away ties that were played over the course of a year, culminating in a final staged at a venue of one of the competing teams, attracted widespread criticism from within the sport.
While the inaugural Madrid finals in 2019, won by Spain, were deemed a success with some high-quality action, the format was problematic with late finishes to matches and a lack of recovery time for players at the end of a long season.
There were also paltry crowds at some of the matches played on three courts inside the Caja Magica — a far cry from the partisan crowds that were a trademark of Davis Cup ties.
$3 BILLION DEAL
Kosmos, a Spanish investment group founded by soccer player Gerard Pique, agreed a 25-year $3 billion deal with the ITF in 2018 to transform the competition.
Germany captain Michael Kohlmann said the present format needs to be given time.
“Two years ago in Madrid the event was something special but the audience was missing,” he said on Wednesday in Innsbruck, where his team are in a group with Austria and Serbia.
“I think that this format has to be given a chance, but I don’t think that the fans will travel around the world each and every year. It’s not like football.”
Britain’s captain Leon Smith said the players and captains should be involved in the decision-making process.
“Everybody wants the Davis Cup to have an important part going forward. Talking to anybody: the atmosphere, the environment is so important. I know that things have to change. Kosmos will try to find what’s best, but there’s got to be an open dialogue about the future of the competition.”
Austria captain Stefan Koubeck said the Davis Cup would never be the same again.
“It’s not what it used to be when I was still playing. The home matches are sorely missed and you can’t compensate for that,” he said from Innsbruck where the ties will be staged without fans because of a COVID-19 lockdown.
This year’s Finals concludes on Dec. 5 in Madrid.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)