10 February 2012
With the Davis Cup back in the limelight this weekend, Goran Ivanisevic contemplates the future of the team competition and reflects on his own experiences.
When the Davis Cup first round kicks off this weekend at flag-filled venues around the world there will be some notable absentees.
Four of the world’s top five players - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and David Ferrer - will not be donning their national colours for various reasons and Ivanisevic believes the ITF have a challenge on their hands to continuously attract the top players.
“Davis Cup is special but in a way I think they have to change the rules,” said Ivanisevic, who won a Davis Cup title in 2005 with Croatia.
“It is too much tennis. You have these stars that don’t play half of the Davis Cup matches so they have to change it somehow by shortening it, or by playing every second or third year. It is not like it was before anymore.”
The Davis Cup format as it stands sees 16 countries represented in the top-tier while four weekends of the year are dedicated to the team tournament, which runs from February to November.
“Tennis can be a pretty selfish sport and a lot of guys think about themselves,” said the former Wimbledon champion. “You’re alone on the court and you make your own decisions and a lot of guys now have to think about their own career and whether they choose Davis Cup or their own tournaments and priorities.”
It has been suggested in the past that more players would be enticed to play for their country if a substantial amount of ATP points were on offer but according to Goran “it doesn’t matter”.
“Points or no points the big guys aren’t going to play,” said the former Wimbledon champion. “But for some countries this is okay. If Nadal doesn’t play, Spain have like 55 other players, but for the other smaller countries if one big name doesn’t play then they don’t have a team.”
But for a patriot like Goran, playing for your country is a no-brainer. “I always loved to play because of the guys,” he enthused. “All year you are alone but for the week of Davis Cup we were four or five guys together having fun.”
When Croatia reached its maiden Davis Cup final in 2005, Goran, who was 35 at the time, came out of retirement to take a spot on the team along with Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic and Ivo Karlovic. Although he wasn’t expected to play, having him as part of the setup boosted the team’s morale and they went on to beat Slovakia 3-2 in Bratislava.
“It was great to be there with the guys,” he said. “It was always my dream to win the Davis Cup but I could not do it as a player playing so I was happy that I was there witnessing it with the guys and they did a great job.”