Andy Murray gives backing to new Davis Cup format

By Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent, Madrid
PA Media: Sport

Andy Murray has urged everyone in tennis to get behind the revamped Davis Cup.

The new-look event, the brainchild of Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique, begins at Madrid’s Caja Magica on Monday, with 18 teams battling it out over a week for the most prestigious team trophy in the sport.

The decision to change the format from home-and-away ties to a World Cup-style tournament has been hugely controversial, with criticism from many current and former players and fans.

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Germany’s Alexander Zverev is boycotting the event and reiterated his opposition at the ATP Finals this week, saying the new format is ‘not Davis Cup’.

But the leading players whose countries are involved have largely decided to support it, including Murray, who cited it as one of his main goals following his return from hip surgery.

The Scot has spoken several times to Pique, whose Kosmos company has ploughed huge sums into trying to make the event a success, and he said: “I respect that he’s trying to do something new and different in tennis.

“Tennis is not always the easiest to make changes in and this is a big change. We’ll see how it goes. I hope it goes really well because, if it does, that’s fantastic for tennis.

“I think there’s some people that seem to be hoping it doesn’t go well but I hope it goes really well and that it’s a big success.

“The players and all of the fans need to try to give it a chance to see how it goes and I think we’ll have a better idea after the tournament’s finished.”

The stakes are certainly high for Pique and Kosmos, who have promised to invest three billion US dollars into tennis over the next 25 years.

Speaking at Saturday night’s glitzy official dinner at the Palacio de Cibeles, Pique said: “It’s a dream come true. I’m very happy. I think that Kosmos group did an amazing job organising everything.”

Adapting the Caja Magica, which hosts the Madrid Masters in the spring, has been a challenge, and the fact it is not entirely indoors is not ideal given the chilly temperatures in Europe’s highest capital city.

A bubble has been constructed to add additional indoor practice courts while temporary individual locker rooms for each team have been constructed.

Kosmos are pushing to move the event to a different time of the year but that will require co-operation with the ATP.

Despite outgoing ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode declaring last spring that having two similar team events six weeks apart would be insane, that is exactly what has played out, with the ATP Cup opening the new season in Australia in January.

Perceived wisdom is that only one can survive in the long run, meaning the pressure is on the Davis Cup to show that the competition’s famous atmosphere can survive the change in format.

That is Murray’s main concern but so far he has been impressed.

“I’ve really enjoyed the set-up that they’ve got,” he said. “It’s nice just seeing all of the players at one event in all their team colours and stuff.”

Murray has not played Davis Cup since the semi-final loss to Argentina three years ago.

Because of his lowly ranking – currently 125 – the three-time grand slam champion will be the number two singles player, with either Dan Evans or Kyle Edmund the number one.

Murray said: “It’s been fun, just being around all the guys again. There’s lots of things I didn’t think I’d get to do again and certainly I didn’t expect to be here.

“Even a few months ago, I was losing in the second or third round of Challengers and was not playing particularly well, so I didn’t know if I was definitely going to be in the team.

“It’s nice, I feel more like I’ve earned my chance to potentially play again and hopefully I have a good week.”

British begin their campaign against the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Serbia play their first match the same day against Japan, and captain Nenad Zimonjic is hopeful of being able to call on a fully-fit Novak Djokovic.

The world number two experienced pain in his troublesome right elbow in his ATP Finals loss to Roger Federer on Thursday but was due to practise on site on Sunday afternoon.

“I think so far everything is OK,” said Zimonjic. “I think it’s going to be enough time for him to prepare for our first match.”

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