Lleyton Hewitt's pleas ignored as ITF makes controversial call on Davis Cup

The International Tennis Federation has gone against calls to return the Davis Cup to a more traditional format.

Lleyton Hewitt, pictured here during the Davis Cup final.
Lleyton Hewitt has bemoaned the new Davis Cup format a number of times. Image: Getty

Davis Cup organisers have announced there are no plans to change the event's controversial format, ignoring pleas from a number of tennis greats including Lleyton Hewitt. The iconic event has undergone a number of dramatic changes in recent years, doing away with tradition after partnering with investment group Kosmos.

The changes include scrapping the traditional home-and-away format in favour of a week-long 'finals' in one location - which took place in Malaga, Spain last year. Matches have also been changed from best-of-five to best-of-three.

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Hewitt led Australia all the way to last year's final, where they eventually lost to Canada. Speaking before the final, Hewitt bemoaned the fact that his players didn't have the opportunity to play on home soil, continuing his years-long attack on the revamped format.

Last month it emerged that Kosmos and the Davis Cup had ended their partnership just five years into a 25-year deal, sparking hopes that the event would return to a more traditional format. French player Nicolas Mahut said: "We lost four years of Davis Cup. We should never have allowed this".

However it looks like the 'finals week' is here to stay, with the ITF announcing on Tuesday that there are no plans to change the format. "We're very excited with the format we have. If you go back to the old format, the problem was that the players would have to commit four weeks a year to play," ITF president David Haggerty said.

"They wouldn't know where they were playing. They wouldn't know the weeks they were playing and they didn't know who their opponents were. That was one of the big reasons we went through the consultation and made the changes for the 2019 edition.

"We like that it's defined. We're looking to make sure we have the best players competing and that we have fans in the stadium and followers around the world. Last year we were broadcast in more than 200 countries and territories, so it's ticking all those boxes and making sure we continue to grow the strength of the competition."

The ITF said last month that it had the finances in place to run the 2023 competition, and Haggerty said it was in "robust financial shape". He added: "The board planned for the Davis Cup with Kosmos and without Kosmos." He added that the ITF would work with the ATP to find ways to improve the competition.

Canada players, pictured here celebrating after beating Australia in the Davis Cup final.
Canada players celebrate after beating Australia in the Davis Cup final. (Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images)

In 2023, the group stage will take place at four venues from September 12-17 (featuring 16 teams), with eight teams advancing to the knockout rounds in Malaga - to be played in November.

The news that nothing will change will not sit well with the likes of Aussie greats Hewitt and Todd Woodbridge. Hewitt has previously slammed the changes as 'ridiculous' and a 'disgrace', and last year said about the neutral venue for the final: "I know how much it meant for me as a player to get the opportunity to play in finals. So I'm thrilled that these boys get that opportunity on Sunday.

"But I'd love it to be in Australia, though. I'm disappointed the boys don't get to play in front of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena.

"There's been changes and tweaks to this competition that we have had to adjust to the last three years. We're back to these guys making massive sacrifices to be playing for their country. This is the third time this year.

"When it changed to this format, it was only ever going to be twice a year, so we have added on another week. It's been a bloody long year for everyone, and we are a long way from home, too. Don't forget that. I don't like the chances of this final series ever being played in Australia."

Swiss legend Roger Federer previously said: “I feel sad about it, you know, not to have the Davis Cup as it used to be. It will never be the same for the next generation."

Todd Woodbridge, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Todd Woodbridge has previously blasted Davis Cup organisers. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Todd Woodbridge's fury over Davis Cup 'disgrace'

Woodbridge had previously blasted the ITF for allowing Canada to compete in the finals after they were handed a spot in the final stage only because Russia weren't allowed to compete. Canada were thrashed 4-0 by the Netherlands in the qualifying round early in 2022, but were gifted a wildcard into the finals when Russia were evicted due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Woodbridge described the decision as a 'disgrace', saying Russia's spot should have gone to the winner of the second-tier World Group I. "Canada and the ITF (International Tennis Federation) ... Canada shouldn't have even been in the final . They lost in April," he said.

"They were given a second-chance wildcard to play in this event. You do not win the Davis Cup on a second chance. You have to try again next year. But they have a serious asterisk against their name, which is unfortunate.

"I probably assume that the ITF would have liked Australia to win the competition. If you're going to change rules mid-year, it doesn't hold the same values as it did once before.

"To Lleyton (Hewitt) and our boys: well done, you did it the right way, you fell just a little bit short. But to the rest of them: I hope they all go back in a boardroom and work out the rules properly for next year."

with AAP

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