Monday, September 24, 2018

Tiburon players divided on new Davis Cup format

Liam Broady, 24, of Great Britain said making his
Davis Cup debut in February at Spain "was prob-
ably one of the best experiences of my life."
Photo by Paul Bauman
   TIBURON, Calif. -- Liam Broady has played on Centre Court at Wimbledon in his home country.
   But making his Davis Cup debut for Great Britain in February meant more to him.
   "It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, to be honest, and I've played a fair few matches on a fair few big courts in my time," the top-seeded Broady said after losing to eighth-seeded Steven Diez of Canada 6-1, 6-3 today in the final round of qualifying for the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club. "It's a different feeling to play for your country. I know each week obviously every player represents their country in a way. There's a 'GBR' next to my name on every drawsheet, but actually playing with 'Great Britain' on the scoreboard instead of your name gives you chills.
   "Players grow up wanting to play Davis Cup for their country, and that was certainly one of my dreams. I'll never have that experience again, I suppose, because it's changing now."
   In an effort to boost stars' participation in the Davis Cup and increase global interest and revenue, the International Tennis Federation voted last month to revamp the 118-year-old competition beginning next year.
   Teams will play during one week in November at one site instead of four weeks spread throughout the year at host nations, countries will play the best of three matches (two singles and one doubles) instead of the best of five (four singles and one doubles), and matches will be the best of three sets instead of the best of five.
   Kosmos, a European investment group led by Spanish soccer star Gerard Pique, will invest $3 billion over 25 years in the new Davis Cup. Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who owns the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, also has pledged financial support.
   When asked if he favors or opposes the new format, Broady said: "It's quite a tricky one, isn't it? I'm quite old-fashioned. I think the tradition and history behind the Davis Cup is something that probably needed protecting a little bit more. Quite a few players made that obvious, but obviously players didn't really get a say in it this time, which was a shame.
   "I saw (Roger) Federer kind of said, 'Obviously there's going to be more money with the new backers and new way it's going to be played, and hopefully that money will go to the players.' So if it does, I guess I've got to support that as well."
Sixth-seeded Noah Rubin serves during his 6-0, 6-0
victory over Thiemo de Bakker, a former top-40 player,
today in the first round of the $100,000 Wells Fargo
Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
    Two years ago at Wimbledon, Broady lost to countryman and eventual champion Andy Murray 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court in the first round.
   "Obviously, it's another dream for any player to play on Centre Court," said Broady, a 24-year-old left-hander whose older sister, Naomi, plays on the women's tour. "I can't take anything away from that, but my instant reaction is to play Davis Cup. Again, to represent your country in that way and to have your teammates by your side and on the side of the court, and to play for your captain with the badge on your chest, there's nothing like it because you're part of something bigger, which is an incredible experience."
   Broady got his chance when injuries knocked out Murray, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion and former world No. 1, and Kyle Edmund, who had reached the Australian Open semifinals the previous week. Broady fell to Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the first rubber of host Spain's 3-1 victory on outdoor clay in Marbella. It was Broady's only match during the competition, which Rafael Nadal also missed.
   "I think there were two or three thousand Brits (in the crowd) because there are quite a few ex-pats in and around Marbella from the (United Kingdom), and we had the Stirling Barmy Army, which is a fantastic fan group," recalled Broady, the runner-up in last year's $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger as a qualifier. "We bring crazy fan support no matter where we play. It was amazing. The first day, the Spanish crowd didn't really turn out, but then the next day and the third day, they made a real effort to get more fans because I don't think they expected so many Brits.
   "Again, you never play in front of a crowd as passionate as a Davis Cup crowd, which I think is one of the reasons so many upsets happen."
   By losing to Spain, Great Britain was relegated to the World Group playoffs, in which it beat Uzbekistan 3-1 on Sept. 14-16 in Glasgow, Scotland.
   "Dan Evans (of Great Britain) won his tie on the first day against (Denis) Istomin, and he was crying," Broady marveled. "There was another guy playing for Hungary (Zsombor Piros) who beat (the Czech Republic's Jiri) Vesely, and he was on the floor after a (4-hour, 20-minute) match."
Top-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain cele-
brates his 6-2, 7-5 victory over Evan King
in the first round of the Tiburon Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Two seeds who won their first-round matches in the main draw of the Tiburon Challenger today agreed with the ITF that Davis Cup changes were necessary. But 22-year-old American Noah Rubin, a Davis Cup practice partner in 2014, was more supportive than 32-year-old Marcel Granollers, who played on Spain's Davis Cup championship teams in 2008 and 2011.
   "I think tennis needs some changes, and this is one of them," the sixth-seeded Rubin said after demolishing Thiemo de Bakker, a former top-40 player from the Netherlands, 6-0, 6-0 in 46 minutes in a matchup for former Wimbledon boys champions. "They're going in the right direction toward making it better for spectators. Obviously there's tradition involved in the old format that people are going to be upset about. With change comes rejection, and you have to deal with that and move forward."
   Playing Davis Cup, added the runner-up in the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger in 2016, "is a tremendous dream of mine. The Olympics and Davis Cup have always been a dream of mine, seeing the incredible ties that have been played against the U.S. and the victories we've had. Hopefully soon."         
   Granollers, who reached career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013, has some reservations about the new Davis Cup format.
   "I think we need some changes in the Davis Cup," he conceded after defeating Evan King, a 26-year-old left-hander from Chicago, 6-2, 7-5. "I don't know if this is the right one or not, but I think we have to give at least one chance to see how it goes next year because with the old system, the best players are not playing."
   Under the current format, the four rounds of the Davis Cup immediately follow, in order, the Australian Open, the Miami Open, the U.S. Open and the ATP Finals, leaving many top players unwilling to play for their countries.
   Granollers likes golf's system of playing the Ryder Cup every other year.
   "The (current Davis Cup) system, you cannot play every year," Granollers maintained. "It's too much, too much traveling, and the best players are focusing on their (individual) careers. I think at least we have to play every two or three years."
   Granollers ranks his Davis Cup championships with his four ATP singles titles, especially Valencia on an indoor hardcourt in 2011, as the highlights of his career. He also owns 15 doubles crowns and doubles runner-up finishes with countryman Marc Lopez at the French Open and U.S. Open in 2014.
   "For sure, one of the top," Granollers said of the Davis Cup titles. "When you represent your country, it's one of the best feelings you can have -- more exciting feelings on the court. But also the titles I won in singles are one of my best memories. Same level.
   "Grand Slam finals in doubles is good, but I'm more proud of my singles titles. Valencia was in my country, 500 (level), so it was a big tournament for me and the best week in my life."
   Here are the Tiburon singles qualifying, singles main and doubles main draws and Tuesday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Admission is $20 through Thursday (free for club members), $25 on Friday, $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday ($55 for a Saturday-Sunday pass).

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