David Haggerty, the ITF president, is proposing some major changes to the Davis Cup format. The biggest change is for the semifinals and final to be played at a neutral venue in the same week. So you would find two semifinals played over Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, with the victors receiving a rest day before playing the final over Friday, Saturday and Sunday as now. In my opinion this would be a bad idea and here are my reasons.
Reasons Against Changing The Davis Cup Format
Firstly, the traveling fans from all four semifinalists countries would potential be buying semifinal and finals tickets, which are quite expensive depending on which country is hosting the tie and the participants. The fans would want to see the final if their team makes it, so would need to buy them in advance. The major downside to this is if your team do not reach the final, you are basically stuck with tickets to a tie you do not want to watch.
As a fan, if Great Britain were in the semi finals but lost and didn't reach the final, personally speaking I would not want to go to the final, and would be looking to try and reimburse the outlay, but very much doubt that the ITF would be willing to refund fans from the losing semifinalists.
Then of course, there is the cost of traveling to the neutral venue, the expense of accommodation to stay for the whole week. This is much more expensive than staying a couple of days only. Another downside to this proposed change is that working people may not have enough holiday or vacation time to cover the whole week, meaning they will have to pick which tie to attend. Imagine opting for the final and the team you follow is not in it, or you opt for the semifinal tie and the team you follow makes the final but you don't have the days off
Another change that has been proposed recently is to introduce a tie break in the fifth set. This is also a bad idea, the most enthralling and exciting matches have gone well beyond the standard tie break at six all. No further information was released as to when this tie break would kick in with scenarios suggested at eight-all or 10-all.
Leave the fifth set alone, the only reason it seems to change it is to shorten the matches and overall ties. This would be an absolute shame as the Davis Cup has had some epic final sets, including the personal favorite of this author which occurred in the first round last year when John Isner was defeated 13-15 in the fifth set by James Ward. This would not have been possible with a tiebreak in the final set and would have not been an epic match.
Making A Change
There is one change that is something I can agree with. Giving the defending champions a bye in round one, this could encourage the top players to commit more time to the Davis Cup than they do now. With the top players committing to the event, then the fans are more likely to pay higher prices for the tickets for the quarterfinals, and this would obviously generate more income for the ITF and the venues that host the ties.
Haggerty is going to consult with the captains of the 16 teams in the World Group during the Australian Open to see what the thoughts of the top teams are. Haggerty has explained that "We would be able to plan in advance where that is. We could have the semifinals in the first three days, a day of rest and then three days for the final." Haggerty went on to add "The players I have talked to have been very positive about that idea and I think it would cause them to play a little more than they do right now".
My message to the ITF - leave the format alone, it works well. As the saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."