The first rounds of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup are coming to a close and once more there is plenty of debate as to the importance and relevance of these competitions.
Tennis is a heavily commercialized sport, with the sort of prize money on offer that many other sports can only dream of offering, especially in the world of women’s sport.
This commercialization, though, needs balance and that balance is best found in representing your country at the international level.
There are many things to be gained from playing in the Davis or Fed Cups and one of these is team camaraderie.
Tennis players spend so much time on the road, travelling from place to place, that it must, at times be a lonely existence.
Although Davis and Fed Cups are only played a few times a year, they offer players a rare opportunity to bond with their fellow countrymen and women and represent their country in a team event.
Yes, you may bring out the argument that as tennis is predominately an individual sport and those drawn to it are suited to that, there are still many benefits that playing in this team environment can bring players that they may take back into their individual game.
To begin with, it can offer, especially younger players, the chance to be mentored by older players.
Although resoundingly thrashed by France last weekend, there is little doubt that Australian youngsters, Krygios and Kokkinakis gained valuable experience from the event.
With former Grand Slam winners Patrick Rafter (Captain) and Lleyton Hewitt in the arena, the youngsters would have been exposed to the type of mentoring not likely offered anywhere else.
I can’t really see Hewitt, in a competitive tournament giving the same sort of advice to his competitors that he would be giving to his teammates.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but…
If you consider the power of the ‘Spanish Armada’ or the rise of Italian women’s tennis, much of the bonds that help build these players as individuals on the world tour, can be found in the bonds formed from regularly representing their countries and being together as a team.
The Davis Cup and the Fed Cup also provide players with tough training weeks as they prepare to take on opposing countries.
The time spent at these events is not wasted time, it is spent training and improving the player’s game as well offering legitimate competition matches.
Another key to these events and their importance is that, if tennis wants to be taken seriously at an event like the Olympics, then tennis players need to be serious in representing their countries more often than just every four years.
For some, tennis will never be a legitimate Olympic event and if the world’s best players think that by turning up once every four years to represent their country is acceptable, then those who would happily see tennis off the list of Olympic events have won their case.
There is something that just doesn’t sit quite right with the attitude, ‘I won’t play Davis/Fed Cup, but I’ll turn up to the Olympics because an Olympic medal will translate into dollars’.
Davis and Fed Cup are excellent nurturing grounds for developing young talent but they also need to be strong competitions that attract the world’s top players.
The Davis Cup appears to be doing just this with six of the top ten ranked men in the world participating in the opening round last weekend.
The four who didn’t compete were;
Nadal, Spain and ranked no. 1 – injured
Djokovic, Serbia and ranked 2
Del Potro, Argentina and ranked 4 – injured
Ferrer, Spain and ranked 5
Injury was a factor for Nadal and del Potro but all four of these players have been active participants in the past at Davis Cup level for their respective countries.
Looking at their previous Davis Cup records, it is clear to see that all four, in the past, have committed themselves to Davis Cup competition.
Here’s a brief summary of their Davis Cup records:
First played – 2004
Total nominations – 16
Ties played – 15
Singles (W/L) – 21/1
Doubles (W/L) – 3/4
Total (W/L) – 24/5
First played – 2004
Total nominations – 21
Ties played – 21
Singles (W/L) – 26/7
Doubles (W/L) – 2/2
Total (W/L) – 28/9
First played – 2007
Total nominations – 10
Ties played – 10
Singles (W/L) – 12/4
Doubles (W/L) – 0/0
Total (W/L) – 12/4
First played – 2006
Total nominations – 20
Ties played – 17
Singles (W/L) – 23/4
Doubles (W/L) – 0/0
Total (W/L) – 23/4
This commitment from the top male players to participate in Davis Cup demonstrates that the competition remains relevant to them.
The Fed Cup, on the other hand, only attracted one player from the top ten, Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
The opportunity to carry the Olympic flame doesn’t come every day, which makes it tempting to overlook Maria Sharapova’s absence from Hobart this weekend, but, Maria’s Fed Cup record is bleak, to say the least.
The Russian’s Fed Cup stats go a little like this;
First played – 2008
Total nominations – 3
Ties played – 3
Singles (W/L) – 3/1
Doubles (W/L) – 0/0
Total (W/L) – 3/1
Having said that though, no other highly ranked Russian woman made the trip either.
The world number one in the women’s game, Serena Williams has a Fed Cup record that is perhaps best described as sporadic.
Admittedly she is under an injury cloud at the moment and was not in Cleveland this weekend as the USA take on Italy.
It’s such a shame that the Fed Cup has not attracted the top women players this weekend.
That’s not to say that the matches on offer were not worth seeing.
The Germany/Slovak Republic tie looks like a real cracker with Germany currently up 2-0.
In the World Group II, Canada has put on a great display with Aleksandra Wozniak taking out a tough three set match against Serbia’s Vesna Dolonc.
Eugenie Bouchard also kept on with her blistering form from the Australian Summer and Canada are now in a good position against Serbia in Montreal.
The Davis and Fed Cups are important events in the tennis calendar and they offer fans high quality tennis matches.
They are as relevant today as they ever have been.