Pique, ITF praise new Davis Cup but admit ‘tweaks’ needed

pique-dc

Japanese internet company Rakuten President and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, left, and FC Barcelona player Gerard Pique watch Davis Cup semifinal match between Great Britain's Kyle Edmund and Spain's Feliciano Lopez in Madrid. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

MADRID — The revamped Davis Cup comes to an end with organizers calling the new event a success but admitting "tweaks" are needed to improve the competition going forward.

Barcelona star Gerard Pique, co-founder of the Kosmos group behind the new competition, said Sunday adjustments will be made to make the event "bigger and better."

He said they are considering building a fourth court to help fix the scheduling problems that led to very late finishes, and will work on increasing attendance numbers.

"You have to know that this is the first event of the new format," Pique said before the final between Spain and Canada. "I think that a lot of people didn’t know what to expect. So there were a lot of people waiting to see what will happen and then decide for next year’s. All we want to do for next year is to try to attract them to bring more people."

Pique said 130,000 people attended matches in the week-long competition that debuted a World Cup-style format with 18 nations playing in a single venue.

The International Tennis Federation said they will work with the national federations to try to get more fans to travel to matches in upcoming years. Next year’s finals will be in Madrid again.

"I think we’ve learned a lot of how they can engage more," ITF president David Haggerty said. "So as Gerard said, I mean, we’re evaluating, we’re going to listen to all the stakeholders. We feel that it’s a fantastic start, a great foundation, but there are always improvements, as Gerard said, that we will make."

Pique said players will also have a say on how to avoid the late finishes that prompted widespread complaints. The group-stage series between Italy and the United States ended past 4 a.m. local time early Thursday, the second latest finish in tennis history.

"We will ask the players," said Pique, who on Saturday made his way to the Caja Magica tennis complex shortly after playing for Barcelona in its Spanish league win at Leganes. "At the end of the day, the opinion of the players are the most that matters for us, to see what they want, what they prefer."

Among the solutions is adding a fourth court at the Caja Magica complex or using another arena near the centre of Madrid to spread the matches, especially in the group stage.

"We will have to be more creative in the future," Pique said. "We had the experience of the timing this year, and for next year it’s something that it worries us, but not too much because it’s easy to solve. So we will work on that."

Pique said other issues they will "have to solve" include problems with the tournament’s website and mobile app, but overall organizers were "very happy about everything."

"The most important thing by far is, and that we have to keep that, is the soul of the Davis Cup," Pique said. "When I see the players celebrating when they qualify, laughing and enjoying. At the same time, when they lose, they are in tears. I mean, all of these, there is no event in the year, in tennis, that you can see that, even in the Grand Slams.

"So this is how important it is for them to play Davis Cup and represent their country. And we have to keep that," he said. "This is the most important thing. And from this base, if we keep that … we can organize an incredible and unique event in the future."

The revamped Davis Cup is the result of a 25-year partnership between the ITF and Kosmos to make the traditional team competition more attractive and lucrative. Pique’s wife, Shakira, performed at the closing ceremony as part of the modernization being promoted by the new organizers.

"The 2019 Davis Cup has been a success," Haggerty said. "And it gives us a strong platform on which to build, make some tweaks and further enhance the competition."

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.