As Andy Murray took a deserved week off from competitive tennis, his compatriots – including his brother Jamie – were slogging it out in both Canada and Estonia, in the Davis Cup and Fed Cup respectively. The two tournaments are the largest and most prestigious international competitions that tennis has to offer; one of the few chances for players to represent their country in a team format.
But in recent years it has fallen by the wayside, overshadowed by the glitz, glam, and glory on offer at the Grand Slams. While most of the top players have indeed accepted the call-up for international duty, it has normally been done for one season when others have not, giving both the Davis and Fed Cups an impression of a ticky-box that must be filled in order to legitmise the success of your career.
Great Britain is now seen as one of the strongest teams in the tournament, despite – rather than because – of the participation of their World Number One. Murray has been an admirable servant to his country, and his focus, understandably, is on adding to his collection of Grand Slam trophies but, if this trend among top players is to continue, then the Fed and Davis Cups run the risk of extinction entirely.
Whether this extinction be due to unnecessary distraction from already full tournament schedules, or just an indictment of tennis’ nature as an individual sport, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) must act in order to preserve the format. By working in conjuction with the ATP and WTA, the ITF could find solid blocks of time to play ties, relieving the worry of top players that this was just another chance of injury. Furthermore, holding the tournament less frequently would rarify its status, giving increased incentive to players who are chasing greatness.
As one of the world’s truly global sports, tennis must capitalise on its universal appeal, rather than treating these competitions like an unwanted distraction.
Image courtesy of Tatiana @flickr