Monday, January 11, 2010
Greetings Tennis Obsessed,
See that photo above? Doesn't that look to you like a thing worth competing for?
Apparently not. Maybe to you it does, but not to many of the world's best tennis players.
So it has been a week or so that I've had to digest the news of Roger Federer's decision to skip the upcoming Swiss v. Spain Davis Cup match. I've also had a week to contemplate the fact that the Americans are flipping the script on Davis Cup as well.
My belly is full of Davis Cup Departures (Murray isn't going to play for Great Britain either) and I'm feeling nauseous. Suffice it to say I was, like umpteen million other tennis fans, already looking forward to the Nadal v. Federer Davis Cup match. Not only is it a searing-hot ticket any time these two living legends meet, but their first-ever Davis Cup affair would have added additional allure to their already monumental rivalry.
Look at that cup! Ain't she gorgeous? Oh, how she shines.
Then why is it that nobody seems to want to play for her? Why is she continually snubbed as if she were the ugliest girl at the dance? Why are the greatest tennis players in the world rejecting this fair maiden when she is practically begging them to come cavort with her?
It is all so simple and yet the simplicity doesn't alleviate my frustration. Scheduling issues are at the heart of the matter. Money too, plays a part - does it ever not? But I'm always left wondering - when I'm informed of the latest Davis Cup no-show - how a sport that wishes to grow globally can afford to miss a golden opportunity to tap into national fervor like the Davis Cup?
I've always been a firm believer that this event needs to improve to the point where it is a showcase event again - like a REAL 5th Slam. And whatever needs to be done (how about letting the final 8 in the World Group battle it out in one or two whirlwind weeks at a neutral site?) should be done with the intent of cultivating and maintaining a fan base that gets to experience the sport through the prism of national pride - this has always been the case, but with the world's best players on board, I think it's effect would be that much more potent - and without the denigrating feeling of being snubbed.
Until we do that, snubbage will continue to be the theme, and nausea will continue to run amok.
As good as the Cup has been in recent years, it could obviously be better. When the world's best player snubs you on a regular basis, you've got a serious issue. When other top players start to follow, the issue is growing. Now we have a crater-sized hole in the cachet of our beloved Davis Cup to go with our ridiculously rigorous men's schedule. Just like favoring a weak ankle can lead to other injuries, there is a relationship between the two here. The ATP is aching, and these issues need more attention than the lip service they have been getting.
As fans we tend to ignore the issues, especially when another season is upon us, but we mustn't forget the fact that nothing has changed. Any strength and conditioning coach will tell you that a player needs about 6 weeks to build the body into a strong enough machine to weather the storm that is the ATP season. And that is after a two week rest. Is there a top player who got anything close to that this winter? I doubt it.
So, as wonderful as the fact is that a new season is upon us, I take these recent Davis Cup departures as a sign of a larger issue. Players are taking their lumps out there, and changes will need to be made. Otherwise the ATP will be encouraging the usage of the type of drugs that their governing bodies seek to prevent.
We don't want that, nor do we want to create an environment that rewards resilience more than it rewards true athletic prowess.
The time is ripe for more than lip service. The time is ripe for change, and here's to hoping that Davis Cup isn't forgotten - for she truly is a damsel in distress - when those changes are made.
Posted by Chris Oddo at 11:25 AM