Letter to the LTA RE: Proposed Davis Cup Reforms

BRITISH ASSOCIATION OF TENNIS SUPPORTERS (BATS)

19 April 2018

Mr David Rawlinson

Acting President, ITF Board

Dear David Rawlinson,

Proposals to change the format of the Davis Cup

The British Association of Tennis Supporters (BATS) has been in existence for almost 40 years and has a growing membership, currently standing at more than 900.  The Association facilitates large attendances at Davis Cup ties both home and away.  In addition, we arrange trips to the Fed Cup and other ATP World Tour events.  In short, we have an intense interest in any proposed changes to the current Davis Cup format.

BATS meets annually at a sports hotel in Basingstoke for our AGM and most recently we gathered in March.  As you might expect, the Davis Cup arose as an agenda item in addition to social media discussions involving the wider membership.  BATS members appear to be of one voice in relation to the current proposals and it is right that we share this with you in advance of August when we understand this matter will be decided upon.

As experienced Davis/Fed Cup fans, we understand that highly ranked players do not always participate as part of their national team.  This can of course be a strength as up and coming players have the opportunity to excel. Cameron Norrie did just that in Marbella earlier this year.  We also understand that tennis players have a very busy schedule and, given there is little advantage to Davis Cup participation in terms of finance or ranking, motivation to take part is likely to be low.  On the other hand, it is very clear indeed that players in some cases are highly motivated to win the Davis Cup at least once for their country. Once achieved, they are then likely to take a break or just play in one tie.  The link between Davis Cup participation and the Olympics does have an effect on players’ willingness to play and we would anticipate that this requirement would remain.

BATS has a major concern that the motivation to change the Davis Cup format does not take account of fans in any way at all.  We worry that the changes are more motivated by money and some senior player needs, and that this event will be concentrated during one week at the end of November in far away places such as Singapore.

We do not have to remind you of the kind of atmosphere generated at a home tie in Davis Cup.  Fans are not only prepared to travel to Europe or further afield, but actively embrace the prospect, often to the point of over subscription, which clearly illustrates the zestful enthusiasm of our fans to support such an event.  Fed Cup events with multi teams taking part only show such vigorous support when the home team makes an appearance. For example, support for the Estonian team most recently.

The proposals as they stand will offer the rich tapestry of 18 national teams in one week but it seems to us that such a large event will have to be staged far away from where most fans actually live.  Even the most committed of us are not likely to travel to Asia on an annual basis in order to support our national team. In other words, this will not be a Davis Cup tournament any more and we shall lose the single opportunity to cheer for, in our case, GB.  To this end, we feel strongly that this proposed change of approach to venue i.e doing away with home and away, fundamentally and somewhat negatively alters the central and unique tenet of the Davis Cup itself.

While we do note that not all of the senior players support the change proposals, we do alsoacknowledge that the uncertainty of the current format can have a negative effect upon a player’s diary.  This may offer the opportunity to move away from an annual event, rather than re-vamp the tournament completely.

BATS is well aware that tennis, like other sports, is largely resource led and it is clear that large amounts of money are at stake here to promote this annual event at the end of November.  We would ask that the LTA/ITF consider the support and the commitment of home tie fans and the undoubted contribution that makes to the ability of teams to perform well.

May we suggest that a consultation period is built in so that the views of fans much more widely can be taken alongside those of business and players.  Part of that consultation should outline the difficulties experienced within the current format so that we can think of compromise solutions for change that will not threaten the very essence of Davis Cup tournaments.

Yours sincerely,

Lynne Moran

Secretary, BATS Executive Committee

Fed Cup in Talinn, Estonia – By Lynne, a BATS Member

I must confess at the outset that I have a preference for men’s tennis, which of course is somewhat unsisterly of me, but so it is. However, the Fed Cup has rather altered my view over time, given the range of teams on offer, and a quite different experience. The dates of this tournament did not really sit too well for those of us who travelled to Marbella for the Davis Cup – some people travelled back to the UK then back out again for Tallinn. Others, like my group, headed off via Stockholm from Malaga to Tallinn. All in a day’s work you may say. We felt the travel experience was of interest.

For people not too sure how all this works in relation to the women’s team game, please do not refer to this article as a definitive analysis. Both the Fed Cup and the Davis Cup are remarkable in their complexity of zones, probably something to do with large numbers of teams. I once read a book about it all but I remain non the wiser really. What I can discuss is the most recent Tallinn experience where 14 teams were involved – quite an array of tennis spread over 4 days.

The format is round robin and with 14 teams, there were two pools of 3 teams and two pools of 4 teams. The first three days then, were spent on matches within pools as it were and the play off matches were played on the final Saturday. The prize for two of the teams was to advance to the World Group II play-offs later this month in Japan.

Serbia triumphed in their pool comprising Bulgaria and Georgia and GB were in the other pool of three. We distinguished ourselves by winning all our rubbers against Estonia and Portugal. Jo Konta and Heather Watson did well enough, and Katie Boulter and Anna Smith complemented one another as a new doubles pairing.

Hungary won their pool, needing to play 3 matches against Croatia, Slovenia and Sweden while Latvia won their group against Poland, Turkey and Austria. Jelena Ostapenko caused something of a stir as the Lativian more highly ranked star.

Our GB play off was against Hungary and we won without too much energy expended. It felt as if we should be the champions of the whole event, but the strange feature of the Fed Cup is that on this occasion, we won the right to try again for promotion out of the Euro-Africa zone 1 where we have been languishing for some time.

If you want to see the most highly ranked tennis players live, you are best avoiding the Fed Cup. The outcomes are most certainly dependent upon the extent to which the “celebrities” are prepared to turn out.   Poland may have fared differently for example, had Radwanska participated. On the other hand, the Davis Cup is likely to suffer from the same thing and, at least at the Fed Cup, there are lots of opportunities to talk to tennis players and collect autographs if that is what you like. Seating is often very close to the action and the atmosphere is much more intimate. The main court had tiered seating and, of course when Estonia were playing, the home crowd was in and noisy. Otherwise, the event is a relatively quiet affair.

When GB was not playing, there was the opportunity to negotiate the snowy landscape and sight see, or venture to the Old Town or take a ride in the warm shelter of the tour bus. Thankfully not open top. We did all of those things (some of us had done the Fed Cup before in Tallinn so fond reminders were available). We also chose to attach ourselves to the Turkish team for a session, becoming very involved in the fabulous efforts of Cagla (Chaala) to overcome opponents more highly ranked than herself, of Latvian origin. So supportive were we in all the excitement that the whole Turkish team presented us with a pennant, signed by each of them. We even wondered about appearing on the Turkish Tennis Federation website!!

And so our work was done – GB overcame and moved on through. L’Ermitage Hotel in Tallinn is every bit as good as the Von Stackelbertg, although the mulled wine is not quite as some of us remember it. Nothing stays the same, this we know.

So, while Japan may be a step too far for some of us, may I recommend the Fed Cup as a feast of women’s tennis well worthwhile the effort. A return to Budapest would be most welcome for some of us.

Lynne Moran

April 2018

Davis Cup 2018 – Great Britain v Spain by Julia, a BATS Member

GB v Spain, Davis Cup – 2nd-4th February 2018.

Venue: Puente Romano Tennis Club, Marbella. Outdoor, clay.

Thursday 1st Feb

An easy transfer by bus from Malaga to Marbella and a comfortable, well-situated, reasonably priced Hotel El Faro recommended by Mary.

Tickets and T-shirts were distributed during the Thursday evening get-together in the bar and spirits were high, if not especially optimistic.  Kyle Edmund, still injured following his exceptional achievements at the Aussie Open, is not playing, but surely Jamie and Dom will win the Doubles for us, so it won’t be a complete whitewash.

Friday 2nd Feb

A good hotel breakfast and amusing to see various members of the Barmy Army in a new kit – and looking younger than ever.

A free shuttle bus to the venue was much appreciated, once we found the bus stop – but oh! – the queue at the gates!

A fabulous venue, glorious sunshine and fantastic seats with a superb view of the court. What more could we want?  There were large swathes of red, white and blue on all sides – 950 British supporters all willing our boys to put up a good fight.  Indeed, the Brits almost outnumbered the Spaniards on the opening Friday.  The volume of our support certainly did!  We just wanted something to cheer and applaud and we were not to be disappointed.

Liam Broady, who had not played on clay for almost three years, was on first, up against clay court specialist Albert Ramos-Vinolas, ranked 144 places above our plucky Brit.  Against all odds Broady kept Vinolas on court for more than two and a half hours.  Not once did his head drop. Fired up by the crowd and relentlessly coached, counselled and urged on by Leon Smith, our Davis cup rookie had the fans enraptured and the Spaniards scratching their heads. Liam Broady gave the fans a match as thrilling as it was unexpected.  A win? –  No  – but a magnificent start to the tie.

Could Cameron Norrie match that performance in his own Davis Cup debut? Ranked 114, he was up against the vastly experienced Roberto Bautista Agut, 23 in the world.  By the start of the third set it would seem not. Despite the indefatigable Barmy Army, the flag-waving cheering and applauding BATs, the chants, taunts and whistles from all sides, by the beginning of the third set the inevitable seemed horribly near. At two sets and a break down, Norrie’s match had not soared to the heights of his colleague’s.  He gave a creditable performance and played with flair and determination but he was outclassed.  The fans did not lose heart, however , nor did Leon Smith – and nor did Norrie.  The volume of support only increased. Miraculously, the double faults stopped and from 3-2 down, Norrie went on to win 16 of the last 20 games. The fans went wild! Unimaginable, unbelievable and how Cameron Norrie and Leon Smith smiled! Surely the most staggering Davis Cup debut performance of all time – and we were there to witness it!

The rest of the weekend’s play couldn’t possibly match up to the Friday’s. The Spanish fans woke up and came out in force on Saturday and Sunday and the final result was the expected win to Spain.

Friday’s matches will live on in our memories however, as will the glorious February sunshine and the most  wonderful shoreline walk to and from the venue. Most heartening of all, we came away confident that British tennis has a hopeful future in players such as Liam Broady and Cameron Norrie.

Julia Sloyan

Feb. 2018

8 British Women Now in the WTA Top 250

By Maurice Baldwin, a BATS Member.

This week sees 8 GB young women in the WTA Top 250. This is something that hasn’t happened for many years. It also compares to GB Men with only 4 Top 250 ranked players. The 8th ranked male player is ranked 424!

1 Jo Konta

2 Heather Watson

3 Naomi Broady

4 Gabi Taylor

5 Katie Boulter

6 Laura Robson

7 Harriet Dart

8 Katy Dunne

Some of these names are familiar but I thought I would spotlight some of the players who are less well known to people that don’t follow ITFs

Gabriella Taylor, 20 – Ranked 178

The progress of Gabriella was halted when she was the victim of a mystery food-poisoning scare during Wimbledon Juniors in 2016. The illness caused her to withdraw during her QF match. There was a police investigation and the episode kept her out of the game for 4 months. She returned in October that year and ended the year ranked 361.

2017 was a year of consolidation and further improvement for Gabi with 2 x 25k tournament wins. (Changwon S Korea and Navi Mumbai India) and a Year end ranking 323

In 2018, Gabi turned 20 in March and has emerged as a real force. Picking up from the win in India she has won 3 out of 4 25K tournaments (Launceston, Perth and Mildura) in Australia with a 17-1 W-L record for 2018. In addition at Mildura she teamed with fellow Brit Katy Dunne to take the doubles title.

Gabi’s latest ranking is a career high 173 and an improvement of 145 places in 10 weeks. This sees her as the new GB4 behind Jo Heather and Naomi Broady.

Her next commitment is a 60K tournament in Canberra this week seeded 7 as she moves up to the next ITF level. The new ranking also means that she will be eligible for direct entry to the qualifying events for lucrative grand slams. She has played Wimbledon qualifying 3 times as a wild card. She got her only win in 2014 aged 16 when she defeated the experienced former top 30 player Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden This was only her 3rd senior professional match! I would also expect to see her in the GB Summer WTA Grass court events as she is in pole position for the much coveted wild cards.

Gabi is based in Spain and coached by Xavier Budo and David Sunyer

Gabi is not alone in her climb up the rankings.

Other young women making moves to career-highs this week:

Katy Dunne, 23 – up to 236 GB7

Harriet Dart, 21 – up to 238 GB8

Harriet qualified in 2 x 25K events and went on to reach the final in both, winning in Altenkirchen and ending a 13 match winning streak as she lost in the final in Yokohama Japan. On her way to the final she scored an impressive QF straight sets win over Laura Robson. I have followed Harriet for many years having seen her reach an ITF final at Edgbaston aged 16.

Katy has also played the Australian events alongside Gabi reaching 1 Final (with a win over Laura Robson) IxSF (losing to Gabi) and 1xQF.

Davis Cup Semi Final- Great Britain v. Argentina 16-18 September 2016, Glasgow

BATS members were out in force to support Great Britain as they attempted to reach a second successive Davis Cup Final against Argentina. Great Britain recovered from a 0-2 opening day deficit to level the tie at 2-2 before Leonardo Mayer defeated Dan Evans in the final rubber. Argentina now progress to play Croatia in the final. We wish them the best of luck!

Here are some images from a fantastic weekend in Glasgow, courtesy of member Ashe Hussain.

Image Copyright Ashe Hussain 2016.

Davis Cup GB v Serbia, July 2016

Davis Cup Quarter Final – Serbia July 15th – 17th

By Carole Green

About ninety BATS members made their way to Serbia for the Davis Cup Quarter Final. Pre ordered tickets to the event were being collected from the Palace Hotel on the Thursday evening and a group of us then went on to the Question Mark Kafana (the oldest in Belgrade) for a traditional Serbian meal. We sat outside, in a delightful courtyard, a local band was gently playing, we were being served good food, good wine – the perfect start to a nice weekend.

The tennis was to begin at 4pm on the Friday afternoon (because Beldgrade is usually hot at this time of the year) – what we were not expecting however, was such awful weather.

We had been supplied with the regulation supporter t-shirts and we must have looked a formidable sight, filling up our side of the terraces alongside the Barmy Army. Old friends got together again and new friendships were made.

There was not too much of an opening ceremony and the tennis got underway to several rain delays. We very quickly discovered that our ‘seats’ were actually concrete steps – not the most comfortable and they soon became awash with the rain. Kyle Edmund was playing the first match against Janko Tipsarevic and he had won the first set 6-3 when the first rain delay stopped play. Tipsarevic clearly was not happy with the weather and could not settle down. The second set got underway but then the heavens really opened. Many of us got so wet that we gave up and made our way back to our respective accommodations. It was quite disappointing to find out afterward – that despite the weather – play resumed without us. Kyle won the rubber 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.

Needless to say the Barmy Army and a few other diehards stayed until the bitter end but a shame that the guys had to play in such wet conditions and in front of so few fans.

I should mention also, that Andy Murray, despite not playing, was there with us, every step of the way, through rain and sunshine, supporting the team.

The Saturday tennis began earlier than planned with the second singles rubber, which should have taken place the night before. James Ward took on Dusan Lajovic but despite valiant efforts he lost 1-6, 3-6, 2-6. The tie was one point each.

Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot then played their doubles against Nenad Zimonjic and Filip Krajinovic. Some really good doubles play with Team GB coming out on top 6-1, 6-7(2). 6-3, 6-4.

The Barmy Army were in fine form – their big drum had been returned to them – after being confiscated at the gates the day before. At this point I should mention that the Serb people – who have the number one player in the world in Novak, did not appear to be too interested in tennis. Their side of the terraces were nearly empty but those who were there were absolutely mesmerised by the GB fans and their support. I can still see the faces of the security guys around the arena – looking on incredulously at our typical fan behaviour. I think they were expecting football type fan behaviour and instead were met with a chanting, swaying and very friendly sea of blue.

The Sunday tennis started in grand style – with a visit to our side of the terraces by the Duchess of Gloucester, the British Ambassador and the President of the LTA. They had come along to express appreciation for our support. They spent quite some time with us – but eventually retreated to their comfy seats in the VIP area. GB supporters nevertheless.

Today the Serbian terraces were much more supported – maybe because it was a Sunday. Kyle was to start the first match – playing Dusan Lajovic. He played so very well – won the first two sets 6-3, 6-4. The third set was tight but he came out the victor at 7-6 (tiebreak). GB 3 Serbia 1. Job done. So overcome was he, that the final winning point saw him dropping to the ground – sprawled out with delight.

A token three setter then took place between James Ward and Janko Tipsarevic with Janko wining 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. At one set all – the third set was close and it so very nearly went James’s way.

The nicest part of this last rubber was the crowd support. The GB fans were chanting for Janko just as much as they were chanting for James. Even the court raker had a chant dedicated to him.

The atmosphere was unbelievable – such camaraderie between both sets of fans. The Serbian fans had learnt our chants by now – well they had been drummed into them for the past three days and I am sure they will recite them again and again, when they next attend tennis matches.

Apart from the tennis, we also had time to explore many parts of Belgrade. Free walking tours were on offer – they prove to be most informative and interesting, an open top bus covered many areas of both the Old and New Belgrade. The icing on the cake had to be the day tour, organised by Mary Pope, to take in the East of Serbia following the River Danube. It was a full day of touring – ancient fortress, archaeological site, high points of the Danube, coffee stops and a healthy, organic meal served from a viewpoint over the Danube. So many diverse interests crammed into one day.

Well the tie is over and the groundsmen might well, by now, have recovered from their efforts over the past weekend. So much sand pushing and shovelling, raking, stamping of divots and pushing the rolling machine over and over again.

Last by certainly not least our thanks must go to Mary for all her patience and perseverance – organising our tickets and keeping us informed with what was happening

As for me, the tie has been played and Team GB won – roll on the semi-final.

Reflections on a Golden Summer for British Tennis

Summer is always an exciting time for any British tennis fan, however this year was particularly special, with the prospect of an exciting two weeks of Wimbledon action, followed by Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final in Serbia and the Olympics in Rio. Could Andy Murray enjoy another golden summer and rekindle those fabulous memories of 2012 and 2013? Would Johanna Konta continue her breakthrough season and earn a special prize? How would Jamie Murray get on after achieving the top spot in the doubles rankings? Could Great Britain reach the Davis Cup semi-finals once again?

Things certainly looked promising for Andy Murray, who arrived at Queen’s on the back of his best ever showing at the French Open. There was also the intriguing matter of Ivan Lendl being back in his players’ box – and we all know what happened last time the two linked up!

Andy certainly didn’t disappoint at the West London event, which traditionally signals the start of the British grass court season. He successfully defended his title and with it took home the trophy for a record fifth time, which is a truly remarkable achievement by any standards.

There were other notable performances at Queen’s, Eastbourne and Nottingham, with Kyle Edmund reaching the Queen’s quarterfinals and Tara Moore enjoying a dream run to reach the same stage in Nottingham. Johanna Konta played some divine tennis at Devonshire Park, beating two-time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova on her way to a semi-final showing. Jo’s rise to the top of the game over the last year has truly been a joy to watch.

At Wimbledon, the success for the Brits only grew in strength. The final Sunday will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest ever days in British tennis history, with British players winning an almost unbelievable four titles in a single day…

Gordon Reid was the first to taste victory in the inaugural men’s wheelchair singles. It was certainly a memorable few days for the Scot, who also won the doubles event just a day earlier alongside partner Alfie Hewett. The triumph was quickly being followed by success for Jordanne Whiley, who won the women’s wheelchair doubles with partner Yui Kamiji of Japan.

Of course, all eyes focused in on Andy Murray, who faced Milos Raonic in the men’s singles final. Could the man from Dunblane take home a second Wimbledon crown?

It was never going to be an easy match against the big serving Canadian, however we all know that Andy is one of the greatest returners ever to play the game, and ultimately it was this that proved to be the crucial factor. It is hard to comprehend what Andy has done for the sport in this country, and I for one certainly don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two as he lifted the trophy for a second time. Straight sets victories don’t get more memorable than this!

The day wasn’t done yet though, with the final icing on the cake being provided by Heather Watson and partner Henri Kontinen, who laughed and giggled their way to victory in the mixed doubles. What a day. What a Wimbledon.

The gruelling tennis season means that there is virtually no time for players to sit back and enjoy their successes, and only a few days passed before it was time to turn our attention to the Davis Cup and Great Britain’s quarterfinal against Serbia.

Andy Murray wisely chose to sit out the tie but made the trip to Belgrade to offer his support. It was Kyle Edmund who proved to be the star of the show, with the man from Beverley winning both of his singles matches against Janko Tipsarevic and Dusan Lajovic in straight sets. On the Saturday, Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot teamed up to win a crucial hard fought doubles rubber and help GB to victory. We had reached the semi-finals once again!

Defending champions Great Britain are once again through to the semi-finals.
Defending champions Great Britain are once again through to the semi-finals.

By the following week, it was Johanna Konta who was making all the headlines, with her stunning victory over seven-time Grand Slam Champion Venus Williams in the Stanford final earning her a first title on the WTA tour.

It had already been quite a summer for Britain – and there were still the Olympics to come.

In Rio, all eyes were back on Andy Murray, who also had the huge honour of being the Team GB flag bearer. His golden triumph in London four years earlier had kick-started an unforgettable period for the Scot, so it was certainly going to be interesting to see whether he could claim victory again.

It is clear how much the Olympics means to both Andy and Jamie, and before the event began the brothers would have had high hopes of winning Gold in the doubles event. Whilst that particular achievement wasn’t quite to be, Andy once again produced his very best tennis in the singles and came through some extremely tough matches to win an historic second Gold medal. The Gold medal match itself was an incredible spectacle, and you’d do well to witness a better match, or indeed a better atmosphere, in the whole year.

Andy’s triumph in Rio was an incredible finale to a golden summer for British tennis – and one that will certainly live long in the memory. Never before can I remember such consistent success, and it was truly wonderful to witness the many moments of brilliance we have enjoyed over the last few months.

As I say, the relentless tennis season means that the next big event is never far away, and attentions will now turn to the US Open and forthcoming Davis Cup semi-final against Argentina. Whatever happens, it is going to be exciting!

Louise Hunt’s Road to Rio 2016

Louise was our guest last weekend at the BATS AGM and tournament in Basingstoke. She presented the trophies on court at the end of the afternoon and she says “I really enjoyed meeting you all… I would like to thank you all again so much for your kind donation to support me on my road to Rio”

BATS was very pleased to be able to present Louise with £500 to help her on her “Road to Rio” and we all look

forward to hearing about her experience at the 2016 Paralympics later this year.

Next week, Louise is off to Romania to compete in the ITF (Grade 3) tournament, before heading to Tokyo for the World Team Cup. Then she travels to Korea for 2 weeks of ITF (Grade 1) tournaments.