Australian tennis legend Lleyton Hewitt has labelled further rumoured changes to the Davis Cup “ridiculous”, saying a long-term move hold it in the Middle East would be effectively “selling the soul” of the iconic event.
The revamped 2021 edition of the Davis Cup kicked off overnight butin Turin, Italy.
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Borna Gojo beat Alexei Popyrin 7-6, 7-5 before Marin Cilic dispatched Alex de Minaur 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic then raced to a 6-3, 6-1 win over de Minaur and John Peers in the doubles.
Australia, who has won the Davis Cup 28 times, will next take on Hungary on Saturday.
After last year’s competition was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic, this year’s Davis Cup marks the second time the tournament has been played under different conditions since it was significantly modified to resemble a world cup format.
The World Group stage, in which Australia is participating, takes place over the course of one week at a single location, instead of home and away ties.
Reverse singles rubbers have also been scrapped to make the match-ups shorter.
But arguably the most controversial change was to do away with best of five sets matches in favour for best of three — a change which was slammed by many former players and traditionalists including Hewitt.
Now there is speculation the Davis Cup could be held in Abu Dhabi for five years in what would be a hugely lucrative for event owners Kosmos Tennis — which is run by ex-Barcelona football star Gerard Piqué.
Kosmos partnered with the International Tennis Federation for 25 years and $4.2 billion back in 2018.
Hewitt, who was part of two Davis Cup-winning Australian teams in 1999 and 2003, said any such move would be akin to “selling the soul of the Davis Cup”.
“I’ve only heard a rumour but I think it’s ridiculous, it’s not what Davis Cup is about,” he said.
“The Davis Cup was held in the highest regard, up there with the pinnacle of our sport in tennis — with matches played over five sets.
“We threw that out the door and then we’ve thrown the home and away out the door as well. “Playing a qualifying tie here or there, best of three sets, is not the same as having home and away, main draw matches over the year.
“So if they’re going and selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East for another five years, I think it’s ridiculous, and they’re really killing the competition.
“I’ve been pretty vocal about the whole thing for the last four or five years now. This is a wonderful stadium here tonight, but it’s not a massive crowd, it’s not what Davis Cup is about.
“Some of my greatest memories were playing in Davis Cup semis or finals in front of packed houses and it didn’t matter if it was in Australia or away, the atmosphere was incredible.
“We sit back, me and Tony Roche and tell these young guys stories about when we played in those situations. I’m just really disappointed now. Guys like Alex (de Minaur) would do anything to be in that situation to play in those big matches.
“I know what (the old Davis Cup) meant to the top guys, it meant the world. There is something really special about this competition.”
Hewitt said he wasn’t holding out any hope he or any other Davis Cup captains would be consulted on any further changes to the competition.
“We didn’t have input four years ago, so I’m not sure it’s going to matter much now,” he said.
“It’s being run by a soccer player and his company and it’s completely different to anything tennis has been through in the past.
“The ITF (International Tennis Federation) certainly didn’t come to me and ask my thoughts or pretty much any Australian who has had pretty much the richest tradition in this competition for over 100 years.”
But despite his concerns, the two-time grand slam winner said there was no way he would consider boycotting the Davis Cup.
“I haven’t ever thought about boycotting Davis Cup or matches for our country,” Hewitt said.
“It’s lost something really special about it but these guys get an opportunity to wear the green and gold and the chance to play for Australia.”
Trump ‘stoked’ crowd on January 6 and should be held accountable, federal judge says
“There may be others who bear greater responsibility and should be held accountable,” Jackson said to Peterson. “But this is not their day in court. It’s yours.”
While Jackson stopped short of laying full responsibility at the feet of those who spoke at the January 6 rally, she and other judges have lambasted Trump and even suggested he may face legal consequences.
Jackson also said Peterson should be held accountable, noting that he is an adult and responsible for his own actions on January 6. “
You did receive a lot of overwhelming inaccurate information on social media,” Jackson said to Peterson, “but you had a choice to reject the lies and not to join the antidemocratic call for martial law.”
“No one was swept away to the Capitol. No one was carried,” the judge added.
Peterson was sentenced to 30 days in jail — twice the jail time prosecutors had asked for — and was ordered to pay $500 for damage done to the Capitol building during the riot. Jackson pointed to concerning posts on Peterson’s social media accounts before and after the riot, including a comment where he said he “had fun lol” on January 6, as one of the main reasons she believed he deserved a jail sentence.
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