Archive for March, 2010
Friday, March 5th, 2010
There has been much debate for years about changing the format of Davis Cup. The unofficial world championship of tennis which has a longer history than any of the big sports in North America, including our beloved Grey Cup. As Canada struggles this weekend against Colombia on the slow red clay down south, I’m reminded that while Canadians and Americans have trouble following the format, it seems to work for the rest of the world. Folks, it’s not always about us.
When Croatia won Davis Cup back in 2005, even my grandmother celebrated. Yes, my ‘baka’ heard the horns, sirens and jubilation in her little village of Jaskovo where the population is about the same size as the coffee shop I’m sitting in to write this blog. A national parade followed and the faces of these local sport heroes were enshrined on a stamp.
For countries who have won the Davis Cup, which stands nearly five-feet-tall, it’s a big deal. Outside of soccer, tennis is considered the major player in many European and South American countries. Spain has won back-to-back Davis Cup titles but with Nadal still battling the injury demon, a three-peat is not in the cards.
I’ll admit, when I joined the tennis world, I couldn’t fully understand Davis Cup. It’s a year-long tournament filled with zonal qualifying rounds, world group playoffs and world group rounds. When countries compete, it’s called a best-of-five tie. The matches within a tie are dubbed a rubber. It all sounds very odd for those of us in the north-western hemisphere, but it has seemed to work for nearly a century and a decade.
Players are often pulled in two directions: playing for their country and playing for a pay cheque. While national tennis federations financially compensate athletes donning their national colours, but it often is during times that disrupt the flow of the ATP World Tour calendar. The two governing bodies have worked well over the past few years to find a way to successfully co-exist. Players now receive ATP points for playing Davis Cup, but the change of surfaces and travel make it a tough commitment for many. Just look at the litany of players who skipped the first round this week.
However, when push comes to shove, players appreciate the tradition of Davis Cup. It’s the only thing that has eluded the great Roger Federer. Davis Cup is a fun and historic part of tennis. The powers that be need to continue to find a way to make it work for the pros but who really cares if we understand it over here.