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France vs Croatia: The last 'real' Davis Cup tie

Andrew Hendrie in Opinion 20 Nov 2018
  • The last 'real' Davis Cup tie takes place this weekend in Lille as France and Croatia battle for the 2018 title
  • It's a must-watch event before the competition is rebranded from 2019
France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille after winning the 2017 Davis Cup title (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Davis Cup as we know and love it will come to an end in this weekend’s 2018 final showdown between France and Croatia - so make sure you tune in one last time!

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Modern-day legends Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have publicly condemned it. ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev won’t be playing it. The same goes for French star Lucas Pouille. The players weren’t consulted. Lleyton Hewitt branded it a ‘disgraceful cash grab’. Amelie Mauresmo labeled it ‘sad for tennis’.

What is ‘it’? We all know. The International Tennis Federation’s decision to sell it’s soul to Spanish football player Gerard Pique and his mysterious investment group Kosmos (along with American billionaire businessman Larry Ellison) for a 25-year, $3 billion partnership in a move that has instantly obliterated 118 years of decorated Davis Cup tradition.

Established over 100 years ago by four members of the Harvard University tennis team, the Davis Cup organically transformed into the world’s biggest annual international team competition in sport, but sadly the 2018 final between defending champions France and 2005 winners Croatia will be the last ‘real’ Davis Cup final before the competition is remodelled from 2019 onwards, played at the very end of the season over the space of one week at a neutral venue.

Raw emotion: France's captain Yannick Noah reacts after his country's Davis Cup triumph against Belgium in 2017 (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
So make sure you enjoy one last dose of traditional Davis Cup tennis before it’s demise. The football-like atmosphere generated at home-and-away Davis Cup ties is nothing short of electric, and I have no hesitation in declaring that all of my biggest ‘goosebumps moments’ in tennis have come inside the Davis Cup arena, including last year’s final between France and Belgium at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy - a multi-use venue that is usually the home stadium of football team Lille but was transformed into a tennis complex for the tie - as over 75,000 final piled in over the course of the weekend to watch France snap a 16-year title drought with a thrilling 3-2 win over Belgium.

Now, 12 months on, France will attempt to defend their title and become the last ‘real’ winners of the Davis Cup as they square off against Croatia at the very same venue. And what a tantalising match-up it will be - the hero of last year’s triumph, Lucas Pouille, teaming up with returning showman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, doubles stars Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert and the always-dangerous Jeremy Chardy to go up against top 10 star Marin Cilic, rising young gun Borna Coric and doubles specialists Mate Pavic, Ivan Dodig and Franko Skugor.

And while you take in the brilliant tennis on display, ask yourself why the ITF believed there was a problem with the Davis Cup in its current format? When you watch over 75,000 fans chanting, cheering and supporting their country after each and every point played over the course of the weekend, ask yourself why this needed to change?

Hewitt’s cash-grab comments were bang on the money, but Pique and the ITF are already under immense pressure to generate any interest whatsoever to their new competition, especially with three of the world’s top five already declaring their unavailability and the ATP’s recent announcement of the ‘ATP Cup’, which will take place a mere six weeks later at the start of the 2020 season and already has the public backing of Djokovic and Federer, along with the advantage of being played right at the start of the year rather than the very end.

So I urge everyone to watch the last ‘real’ Davis Cup tie this weekend, before the competition is destroyed by outside influences that don’t have the best interests of the sport at heart and are only driven by $$$.

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France vs Croatia: The last 'real' Davis Cup tie

Davis Cup as we know and love it will come to an end in this weekend’s 2018 final showdown between France and Croatia - so make sure you tune in one last time!

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