Former Australia No 1 Lleyton Hewitt has criticised the proposed changes to overhaul the team event Davis Cup as a “money grabbing” exercise that will ruin one of the great competitions in world sport. Australia’s Davis Cup captain didn’t mince words in expressing his displeasure over the supposed direction being taken on the 117-year-old event.
As per the proposed changes, the team event will be renamed as “World Cup of Tennis Finals” with the big countries to play over the course of one week in a neutral city in late November. The affair would see 18 nations compete in a round robin phase followed by knockouts to win the title. The ties would be reduced to three rubbers played in a best-of-three sets style.
“I am obviously totally against it and pretty frustrated by what has occurred,” Hewitt told The Australian from Miami.
“The (proposed) competition is not the Davis Cup. You can’t call this the Davis Cup. You can ask anyone for the past 50 years who has played the Davis Cup and (this proposal) is not what it is about, nor what it should be about.”
Financially, ITF has partnered with Kosmos, an investment group led by Spain and Barcelona football player star Gerard Pique and backed by Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Japanese E-commerce company Rakuten. As per ITF’s projections, the partnership will deliver almost $4 billion in funding over 25 years, with the funds to be distributed as prize money and to grow the sport.
Hewitt, who has won most most Davis Cup rubbers for Australia than any other player, thinks it is all about money and has nothing to do with helping the event or the sport. “There are a lot of people who are frustrated by it and see this as a money grab. It is a money deal,” he said. “How can a billionaire come along and buy into one of the sport’s biggest events, most important events? It is all about money, not representing your country. It makes absolutely no sense.”
A two-time Grand Slam winner, Hewitt believes ITF president David Haggerty should resign if the motion fails to receive a two-thirds majority in August. “To me, I think Haggerty should lose his job if this does not go in his favour,” Hewitt said. “I don’t think he can sit there and have those changes knocked back. I am quite strong on the whole thing. Tennis Australia is fighting against this.”
He was further critical of ITF for leaving nations blindsided with their announcement. He revealed he had discussed the Davis Cup with a senior ITF official a day before the proposal was publicised. In that conversation, Hewitt said he gave feedback on recent changes to the event, including abolition of dead rubbers and introduction of tiebreakers in the deciding set.
However, Hewitt’s biggest gripe with the proposal is over the loss of home-and-away fixtures and abolition of the best-of-five set format. “That is what Davis Cup is all about,” he said. “They are the two points of difference to the regular tour. It is why we play … and this is what we would be giving away.”