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NATIONALITY IN SPORT - TENNIS NEEDS IT BACK


Capacity crowds across the country. Massive TV audiences. Thousands gathering in public to watch on screens.

 

The Matildas – and the Women’s World Cup as a whole – have captured the Australian public like very few events could.

 

And ultimately, it’s a country coming together to support a national team – a feature of sport that has long been the pinnacle.

 

Tennis – over the past decade in particular – has lost its sense of nationality, and neglected competitions which can bring people together.

 

The Davis Cup had long been the ‘World Cup’ in men’s tennis, with the best players competing for their country in front of home and away crowds.

 

But in recent years, through Kosmos’ partnership with the ITF in 2018 – and a shift to play all finals in one city, the event has in part, lost its credibility.

 

The Billie Jean King Cup – the annual women’s national team women’s event – may be the best current country competition that we have, but it still takes place during down weeks in the calendar.

 

The Hopman Cup – which saw male and female players compete together for the first time – lost its place in the Australian summer after 2019 and has since returned in France this season with very little momentum.

 

The ATP Cup – a men’s event which replaced the Hopman Cup – lasted just three years before it too was shut down in favour of the new ‘United Cup’ – another mixed competition.

 

It has been extremely hard to follow, and each event has been halted or changed before having the opportunity to grow and develop any significance.

 

Tennis must have a thriving national team competition because ultimately, the sport struggles to compete with thosewhere fans can support one club for life.

 

The reality is, players come and go, and while many fall in love with them (notably Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) – there is a big void to fill once they do depart.

And while a team-based concept in professional tennis would require a major overhaul, a hardened focus on national team competition is viable.

 

But the implementation must be clear and needs to be a priority within the calendar – and I see two possible options.

 

Firstly, bring back home-and-away ties in a Davis Cup/Billie Jean King Cup format.

 

Passionate fans add so much to any event and hosting major competitions in neutral cities can prevent a boisterous atmosphere.

 

However, constant ties in nations like Australia are a scheduling nightmare in what is already a packed calendar, and would need to become a priority to successfully function.

 

Alternatively, tennis could brace a World Cup style event – and don’t shy away from calling it that.

 

Football, basketball, cricket and rugby, all host them but not annually, allowing momentum to build up for a tournament that is held in significant regard.

 

And like those listed – even more so than cricket or rugby – tennis truly is a global game and is worthy of a world championship event.

 

An individual sport naturally makes it difficult but alternating yearly between a Men’s and Women’s World Cup – for a sport with more than 200 competing countries – comes with endless potential.

 

Such an event would take time to gain momentum, but then again, who would’ve thought we’d have nearly seven million Australians watching a Matildas round of 16 World Cup match in 2023?

 

 

 

 

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