Aussie tennis great Todd Woodbridge has taken a stunning swipe at the sport's governing body after warning the Davis Cup "will become a thing of the past" unless something is done to save the famous teams event. The Davis Cup has been around for more than a century after first being staged in 1900.
The event is being staged in the UK this week, with Lleyton Hewitt's Aussie side beaten 2-1 by hosts Britain in a disappointing start to their group campaign. Alex de Minaur and Thanasi Kokkinakis both lost their singles rubbers against Jack Draper and Dan Evans respectively, before Aussie doubles pair Matt Ebden and Max Purcell reduced the final deficit to 2-1 to salvage something for Hewitt's men.
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Many of the ties being played across various European cities have taken place in front of paltry crowds, and the event has been slammed in the past for its exorbitant ticket pricing and revamped format. Spanish football great Gerard Pique's Kosmos Group was behind a famous 2.5 billion pound ($A4.87 billion) takeover of the Davis Cup in 2019 that included a radical shake-up of the famous event.
As well as removing home-and-away ties in favour of an end-of-season World Cup-style climax, organisers ended the traditional best-of-five-sets matches in favour of a first-to-two-sets format. The Kosmos deal was supposed to run for 25 years but waning interest in the event saw them abandon the project.
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The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is back running the event but has already drawn criticism from around the tennis world. Switzerland's three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka hit out at Pique in disgust after tweeting a video from his country's tie against France in Manchester, with next to no one watching from the stands.
— Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka) September 12, 2023
"Thank you Gerard Pique and ITF! France vs. Switzerland in Manchester," Wawrinka tweeted with an angry-face emoji showing a stadium littered with empty seats. Woodbridge - who has won the Davis Cup twice with Australia as well as 16-times doubles grand slam titles - reposted Wawrinka's tweet with his own swipe at tennis chiefs.
"Until there is change of leadership @ITFTennis and @DavisCup the event will become a thing of the past," he posted. "So sad to see what was once a magnificent competition reduced to this."
Despite Kosmos pulling the pin on its Davis Cup project, the format of the event will remain the same in 2023, before an expected revamp next year. "The ITF can confirm that its partnership with Kosmos Tennis for Davis Cup is ending in its fifth year," a statement from the governing body read.
Aussies off to disappointing start in Davis Cup
Australia's hopes in this year's Davis Cup hang in the balance after the group stage defeat against Britain. Hewitt's men need a top-two finish in their group to make it into the 'final 8' phase, meaning the Friday (AEST) duel with France is a must-win, followed by the final group stage tie against Switzerland.
The Aussies were outclassed by a Britain side buoyed by their home fans, with Draper outlasting Kokkinakis 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in an epic slug-fest before Evans fought off a thrilling comeback from de Minaur to prevail 6-1 2-6 6-4.
2022 Wimbledon doubles champions Ebden and Purcell then rekindled their old partnership to beat Evans and Neal Skupski 7-6 (7-5) 6-4. That victory salvaged something from a disappointing start to the campaign for Australia - who were beaten by Canada in last year's final.
A pumped Dan Evans with a brilliant performance against the higher ranked Alex De Minaur and a brilliant 2-0 for Team GB! Let's go!!👏🇬🇧pic.twitter.com/3dWyjB1rTG
— Pavvy G (@pavyg) September 13, 2023
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