Lleyton Hewitt slams organisers for ‘selling soul’ of Davis Cup

Lleyton Hewitt has expressed his dismay at the state of the Davis Cup following the news the tournament could be held in Abu Dhabi from 2022. Hewitt, the captain of the Australian team, said the current format is “not what Davis Cup is about”, an event he believes once stood as the pinnacle of the sport.

“Davis Cup was held in the highest regard because it was up there with the pinnacle of our sport in men’s tennis, which was five sets. Grand slams and Davis Cup, they are the only ones that played five sets. We threw that out the door, and now we are throwing the home and away out the door, as well,” Hewitt said as Australia prepared to face Hungary in Turin, having lost their opening match in this year’s finals to Croatia.

He continued: “So if they are going and selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East for another five years, I think it’s ridiculous, and they are really killing the competition.”

A proposal for Abu Dhabi to host the 2022 Davis Cup finals will be voted on at an International Tennis Federation board meeting in Madrid next week. Asked whether he thought the Davis Cup captains and leading players should have more input in the development of the competition, Hewitt shrugged and said: “We didn’t have input four years ago. I’m not sure it’s going to matter much now. It’s been run by a soccer player and his company. So it’s totally different to anything that tennis has been through in the past and such a big event.”

As Great Britain prepared to begin their finals tournament in Innsbruck, the captain, Leon Smith, took a more measured approach by stating that he did not know enough about the new proposal to give his full opinion. Earlier in the week, before the news about the 2022 location, Smith said he wanted there to be more communication between the organisers and players. On Friday, he reiterated his belief that it should be one of the biggest events on the calendar.

“When all is said and done, look, I’m biased, this has been a huge part of what I’ve gone through in the last decade,” Smith said. “A lot of players here have either grown up around it, played in it, being part of it. Everyone loves playing. No matter what we think, we just want this competition to be the best it can be. I don’t know what that looks like or what may happen in the future, but we love this. You love it more when it feels like a big event, it feels like a big deal, it’s in front of a lot of fans.”

His team will face France on Saturday and then the Czech Republic on Sunday as they look to advance from their group and reach the knockout rounds. This is the second Davis Cup Finals since Kosmos, the investment group cofounded by the Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué, joined the ITF to run the Davis Cup in a partnership. The group stage of this year’s event is spread across Innsbruck, Turin and Madrid, where the final two rounds will be held. In Austria, matches will now be played behind closed doors due to the lockdown there.

This is a positive period for Great Britain. Despite contesting their first tie without the presence of both Andy and Jamie Murray since 2013, they boast a deep, well-rounded squad across both singles and doubles. Cameron Norrie, the world No 12, heads the team while Dan Evans, ranked 25th, is the second highest-ranked second singles player in the competition. Among the doubles players, Joe Salisbury is now ranked third and Neal Skupski is 20th. Liam Broady, who has enjoyed the season of his life, rounds out the team.

“Everyone is highly motivated, coming in on a wave of confidence,” said Broady. “We have not just excellent tennis players but an excellent staff behind us, as well, an excellent team. I just think everyone wants to be the best he can.”