Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification
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Novak Djokovic has been slammed for his comments on a controversial proposal to move the Davis Cup Finals to Abu Dhabi. The International Tennis Federation is set to announce a new home for the team tournament in the Middle East on Sunday (December 5), which would see the Davis Cup Finals hosted in Abu Dhabi for the next five years. The news has been met with heavy criticism, though the world No 1 has remained more open to the idea.
The revamped edition of the Davis Cup Finals is currently being played for just the second time.
Kosmos, a sports and entertainment business and investment founded by footballer Gerard Pique, signed a $3 million partnership with the ITF to transform the 100-year-old tournament often seen as the ‘world cup of tennis’, with the inaugural reimagined Davis Cup Finals held in Madrid in 2019.
The tournament was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and has returned this year across three host cities – Innsbruck, Turin and Madrid – before the semi-finals and final will be staged in the Spanish capital.
Djokovic is the biggest player competing in the team event this week, representing Team Serbia.
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During this year’s edition of the Davis Cup Finals, news broke that ITF board members would likely be voting through a proposal that would see the event staged in Abu Dhabi for the next five years – a move that has been condemned by many.
According to The Telegraph, it was the Barcelona defender himself who personally struck the deal, with few other options presented to the ITF for Davis Cup host cities.
Under the plans, Kosmos would look to continue to hold the preliminary group stages in Europe, similar to the way this year’s edition of the Finals saw 18 nation teams competing in groups across Innsbruck, Turin and Madrid.
The move to the Middle East has proven controversial not least for the time it would take for qualifying teams to fly from Europe to Abu Dhabi and adjust to the new conditions and time zone in the middle of the same tournament, as well as the difficulty for fans to fly over and support their home nation without knowing who would make it to the latter stages in advance.
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The shaken-up format introduced by Pique and Kosmos two years ago also came under fire in itself from those who preferred the traditional tournament, with the likes of world No 3 Alexander Zverev refusing to compete in the event ever since, saying it is not the “true” Davis Cup.
With many opposed to the proposed move, Djokovic seemed happy to find ways to improve the Davis Cup when asked for his thoughts on a potential new venue in the Middle East.
“Some people think we should stick to what the Davis Cup as a competition or as a format was before,” he said.
“I’m somewhere in between. I think you need to respect the tradition and the history, and you need to stick to the things that are recognisable that make this competition so important for the sport.”
“At the same time you need to move forward and find new ways to improve the competition.”
Now, the 20-time Grand Slam champion has been slammed by retired pro and two-time doubles title winner Sam Groth for being “contradictory”.
The Australian told Wide World of Sports: “I can tell you the sort of players who are going to show up to a 14-day event in Abu Dhabi.
He continued: “This is not the Davis Cup but the players who are going to turn up are exactly like Novak Djokovic, in my opinion, who spoke up obviously rebutting Lleyton’s [Hewitt’s] comments about the tournament needing a change, it needs to be adjusted and needs to be played in different cities and then the finals in one city.
“I don’t have facts on this but I believe there is something going on with this group [Kosmos Tennis] is spending a lot of money and they have big financial backers in Abu Dhabi.
“Also for a guy who wants less tournaments throughout the year, a shorter season and to support something that goes into mid-December it is very contradictory.”
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