Pique says soul preserved at new Davis Cup, despite mixed attendances
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Gerard Pique claimed on Sunday the new Davis Cup has preserved the emotion and drama of the old format while insisting attendances will improve next year.
Pique, the Barcelona defender at the forefront of changes made to the 119-year-old competition, hailed this week's tournament as laying the foundations for a "unique and incredible event" in the future.
Spain and Canada will contest the final at the Caja Magica later on Sunday, with some gripping ties ensuring the revamped Davis Cup has got off to an encouraging start in its inaugural year.
But poor turnouts for some of the group-stage ties, particularly in the morning sessions, have been a major concern while other problems, including painfully late finishes, mean there is room for improvement.
"The most important thing by far is the soul of the Davis Cup," said Pique, whose marketing company Kosmos have a 25-year deal to run the competition with the International Tennis Federation.
"I see the players celebrating when they qualify, laughing and enjoying, and at the same time, when they lose, they are in tears.
"There is no event in the year in tennis that you can see that - even in the Grand Slams I don't see players crying when they lose. From this base we can organise an incredible and unique event in the future."
The tournament has benefitted hugely from the success of Spain, the hosts, whose nerve-shredding semi-final win over Great Britain contributed to 21,955 spectators present on Saturday.
Yet on Monday, the figures were more worrying as only 12,114 saw group matches between Croatia and Russia on Centre Court, Italy and Canada on Court 2 and Belgium and Colombia on Court 3.
"There were a lot of people waiting to see what will happen and then decide for next year's (tournament)," Pique said.
"But it's also true that people from all the countries have travelled - Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Belgium.
"I'm sure that for next year we will improve a lot because now people know what to expect from this new format."
- Scheduling worries -
Madrid will host the Davis Cup finals again in 2020 and could do a third year, even if the legitimacy of the competition might benefit from a rotating venue.
"We have a lot of different options on the table (for 2021)," said Pique. "Madrid already expressed interest in doing another year. We have interest from Asia, from North America, South America. So we will decide in the next months."
Scheduling has also been a problem this week after several evening sessions finished in the early hours of the morning, with players expected to play again the following day.
The last doubles rubber between Italy and the USA finished at 4.04am local time on Thursday, prompting both morning and evening sessions to be brought forward by half an hour.
"We could build a fourth court here in the Caja Magica," said Pique. "For next year it's something that worries us, but not too much, because it's easy to solve."
Novak Djokovic was also among those to call again for the Davis Cup to join with the ATP Cup, another new team event that is to launch in Australia in January.
Many players have agreed there will not be room long-term for both events in the calendar and Pique hopes changes at the ATP could break the deadlock in negotiations.
Italian Andrea Gaudenzi replaced Englishman Chris Kermode as ATP chairman last month.
"There will be some changes, so we hope we can sit down again," Pique said.
"I think that in the future we are really open to trying to get a new deal, to make a unique competition, a super event of two weeks and try to find the best time in the calendar.
"We are very happy that in the next few months I think we will start talking again with the ATP and I hope in the next few months we can announce something."
© 2019 AFP