Last weekend, with Serbia playing host to defending champions Great Britain in their Davis Cup quarter-final clash, the 6,100-seater Tasmajdan Stadium at Belgrade could have been a cauldron, packed with raucous fans, as the two top ranked players in men’s tennis, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, battled for nation and glory.
But alas, with the tie starting less than five days after his Wimbledon triumph, an exhausted Murray could only cheer his steam from the sidelines.
And world No 1 Djokovic, stunned in the third round at Wimbledon, did not even show up at Belgrade.
Even Viktor Troicki, Serbia’s No 2, was not available for the tie, and the home fans found themselves rooting for a team led by world No 83 Dusan Lajovic with No 408 Janko Tipsarevic being their second singles player.
The visiting Britons had No 67 Kyle Edmund and No 240 James Ward battling for them in the singles.
Now, even if you were a hardcore tennis fan, how keen would you be to watch the world No 240 take on the world No 408, especially if you come from a nation boasting two of the best tennis players on the planet?
But you cannot blame Murray, or even Djokovic, for their absence, as how can you schedule a Davis Cup quarter-final five days after a major?
And how can you schedule these ties in places like Pesaro, Trinec and Beaverton?
Why would the fans, or even TV networks, bother showing up?
To save you the trouble of referring to Google, Pesaro is an Italian town of 95,011 on the Adriatic coast. Trinec is a Czech town with a population of 37,405 and Beaverton, in Oregon state, is one of the smaller cities of the USA with a population of about 90,000.
Would the ATP or the WTA ever consider allocating one of their top tournaments to cities such as these, or even a 250-point tournament?
Yet proud tennis nations such as the US, Italy and the Czech Republic have hosted their Davis Cup quarter-final ties at centres such as these.
What does that tell you about the status of the Davis Cup, a tournament that once rivalled Wimbledon for its glory?
The scheduling makes it virtually impossible for the top stars to accommodate the event and without the stars, the event is clearly losing its sheen
It still holds a pride of place among the aficionados, but as Jim Courier, the former world No 1 and US Davis Cup captain, told Portland newspaper The Oregonian last week, the “Davis Cup succeeds largely in spite of the format, not because of it”.
So, how about making the format and scheduling attractive as well, for both the stars and fans, before it is too late?
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