Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Time to Make Davis Cup More of a Team Competition

Every year the Davis Cup title (at least theoretically) goes to the top country in men's tennis.  But for what's supposedly a "team" event, very little emphasis is placed on the whole "team" part.  This year's champion is Great Britain, who has one superstar in Andy Murray and only one other singles player in the top 100.  It's kind of hard to take the tournament seriously when a country like Great Britain can be deemed the best in the world, when they're essentially a one-man show. 

Great Britain to no fault of it's own merely took advantage of the Davis Cup format, which basically requires no depth of talent for the participating countries.  Given that one stud singles player (i.e. any member of the "Big Four") can win 2 out of the necessary 3 points in any given tie, very little else is needed to advance.  This may be great for the countries with superstars up top, but it's hard to say this is the best way to determine which country reigns supreme in men's tennis in any given year.

The whole ATP season is designed to recognize the top individual players in the world, so it simply doesn't make sense that the premier team event in men's tennis is so "individual" based.  To truly determine which is the best country, it would make more sense if each country has to use three or four singles players, as opposed to just two.  (Perhaps keep the current format but only let singles players play once, so that a country has to us it's 4 best singles players).  

The country that would have likely benefited the most from a more "team" friendly format over the last decade would have been France.  Most tennis analysts would acknowledge France has been one of the strongest countries in men's tennis over the last decade with the likes of Tsonga, Monfils, Gasquet, Simon and a host of others, but they don't even have one Davis Cup title with this crop.  Despite all their talent and depth, their lack of a sure fire number one option has kept them from winning a title.  But does anyone really consider Great Britain "better" than France when it comes to men's tennis?  It becomes fair to ask whether the problem was France and its inability to get the job done at the biggest moments, or whether France just found themselves stuck in a format that isn't really designed to reward the best "team".    

Some might argue Davis Cup struggles with garnering ratings and support enough as it is, and throwing out the fourth best player from Canada against the fourth best player from Belgium isn't going to help in that regard.  This may be true, but there has to be a way to make the competition more about recognizing the best country, and not just the country with the best player in any given year.  As many others have suggested, making Davis Cup an every other year event may be the solution toward boosting ratings and overall interest, and if fans are more excited about the event in itself they may not care as much about seeing some lower ranked players.  One way or the other, if the event is truly supposed to recognize the country with the best team, the format should be such that actually having a good "team" is a prerequisite to wining.  

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