Rafter: without top players, Davis Cup is dead
Originally published on: 03/12/10 12:30
Australia’s new Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter has slammed the lack of commitment shown by the top players towards the 110-year-old competition on the eve of the 2010 Davis Cup final.
With Serbia set to face France in Belgrade this weekend, former world No.1 Rafter warned that “Davis Cup is dead” if the world’s best players continue to opt out of the competition.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick were among the high-profile names to withdraw from their nations’ Davis Cup World Group squads in 2010, while Andy Murray elected to concentrate on his tournament schedule rather than play for Great Britain, who are currently playing in the third-tier Euro-Africa Zone II.
“It’s a problem all round the world, guys just don’t want to play,” said Rafter, speaking at the AEGON Masters Tennis in London. “That’s bloody weird to me, I don’t get it.”
Rafter, the 1997 and 1998 US Open champion, played in two Davis Cup finals for Australia and helped the team reach the 1999 final before missing the victory over France through injury, compiling a 21-11 win-loss record during his seven years of Davis Cup duty.
And the 37-year-old believes the notion that the Davis Cup season does not fit with the ATP Tour calendar is a symptom of misplaced priorities.
“My schedule was Grand Slams and Davis Cup, and I worked out the rest around it,” he said. “That’s what nearly everyone did back then.
“Sometimes you’d think, ‘do I really need to go back to Australia to play Uzbekistan after I just won the US Open?’ But when you’re there, being with your mates again, it’s great. I think these guys are missing out on a lot.
“To me it’s selfish – it doesn’t fit into your plans? Maybe it’s a lack of patriotism, I don’t know. If no one plays, if that’s the attitude of everyone, then Davis Cup is dead.”
Fortunately, not everyone does share that attitude, as those involved in this weekend’s Davis Cup final between Serbia and France will attest. Serbia have the edge with world No.3 Novak Djokovic in the side according to Rafter, who believes there is as much pressure on players in the final of a Davis Cup as a Grand Slam final.
“You’re seeing an example of what Davis Cup can do,” he said. “For these guys it’ll be the best and worst moments of their lives. That’s exactly what it’s all about – that’s exciting.
“In the Davis Cup you’re not playing for yourself. You feel all this pressure from your team-mates, you don’t want to let anybody down or let your country down.
“But when you win, wow! Imagine what will happen here if Andy Murray plays Davis Cup and they get through to the finals – it would be ballistic.”
Rafter, aided by his former coach Tony Roche, will take change of his first Davis Cup tie in July 2011 as Australia seek a return to the elite 16-team World Group, having missed out on promotion against Belgium in the 2010 play-offs.
But while his appointment in October was greeted with an outpouring of enthusiasm and high hopes, Rafter is adamant that the priority for him is finding a team of players who are committed to the cause.
“These guys will want to play – if they’re No.400 in the world and that’s all I’ve got, that’s all I’ve got.”