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Davis Cup organizers already looking at changes for 2020

Spain Tennis Davis Cup

Russia’s Karen Khachanov returns the ball to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)


MADRID -- Organizers are already considering changes to the new Davis Cup.

The first edition of the Davis Cup Finals is not yet over but the CEO of the group behind the revamped team competition said things need to improve.

Kosmos Tennis CEO Javier Alonso told The Associated Press on Friday that although the tournament has been an overall success, organizers need to work on ways to increase attendance and improve the scheduling of matches, among other things.

“Again, it’s the first edition,” Alonso said. “We make a plan, and now that we have the reality, we can go back home on Monday and start thinking on what has not worked well and how we can improve those things that have not worked well.”

He said the most pressing concerns are related to the schedule of matches and low attendance, especially in the morning sessions. Only matches involving host Spain have had full crowds, although the fan atmosphere at most matches has been good thanks to the traveling groups of supporters from some of the participating nations.

“We knew that mornings were difficult. Not only here, everywhere. But it’s a learning again,” Alonso said. “Now, with the experience, we will do it different next year.”

Alonso said they will work with the presidents of the local tennis federations to try to bring more fans to the matches, many of which started with half-empty courts. The first two quarterfinals - Canada vs. Australia and Serbia vs. Russia - did not attract full crowds to center court.

Groups of school kids were invited to the morning session on Friday, though organizers said it was not a measure aimed at improving attendance.

Alonso said it was a mistake to stage the opening ceremony before the first matches on Monday, when Spain wasn’t playing and the crowds were small at the Caja Mágica tennis complex. Center court was mostly empty for a ceremony that featured a high-tech audiovisual show and performances by artists Alan Walker and Farruko.

“If we had put the inauguration show during Open Day on Sunday, after the training of Spain, it would have been packed. We had 8,000 people here,” Alonso said. “The show was amazing.”

Promoting concerts by popular artists is one of the actions by Kosmos to make the new competition more attractive to fans. Colombian singer Shakira will perform at the closing ceremony on Sunday.

Alonso said they also need to fix the scheduling of matches to avoid the late-night finishes that have prompted complaints from fans and players.

The group-stage series between Italy and the United States ended past 4 a.m. early Thursday, the second latest finish in tennis history. Organizers reacted quickly by moving start times forward by half an hour and reducing the interval times between matches, but Alonso said more will have to be done.

“We need to improve the way it works so we don’t have (ties) of eight hours, which we like because at the end of the day it’s exciting, but it’s not possible that we finish at 4 a.m.,” Alonso said. “We have to try to minimize these types of things happening. We have to sit down and see what we can do.”

Another issue that attracted negative attention this week was the format flaw that allowed Canada to forfeit its doubles match against the United States on Tuesday, handing the Americans a 6-0, 6-0 victory that could have affected other teams trying to qualify for the quarterfinals. Canada decided to skip the match because it had already advanced and some of its players were injured.

“That’s difficult, but we have to sit down and find a solution,” Alonso said. “I agree that it’s not fair. We have to find a solution for things that are not fair, and this was not fair.”

The International Tennis Federation signed a 25-year partnership with Kosmos - an investment group co-founded by Barcelona soccer star Gerard Piqué - to revamp the Davis Cup and make it more attractive and lucrative. The new tournament is being played over one week in a World Cup-style format with 18 teams competing in a single venue. It previously was played with head-to-head confrontations over four weekends throughout the year.

“Overall, players are happy. We are showing that the format works,” Alonso said. “All of them are enjoying being part of Davis Cup, representing their nations and their federations. Spectators are enjoying.

“It’s a new format, they have to learn what that means, which is not easy, but it’s happening.”