Djokovic weighs in on Abu Dhabi rumours

On Friday, Novak Djokovic asked the million dollar question (more like 3 billion but who’s counting?): should tennis as a sport “follow the money” or choose to protect its tradition above all else?
The world No. 1 was asked to weigh in on the rumours that the ITF/Kosmos are on the brink of signing a deal that would take the Davis Cup Finals to Abu Dhabi for five years.
Davis Cup
Zverev makes Davis Cup U-turn to play for Germany after Acapulco disqualification
01/03/2022 AT 15:43
Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt described the move as “ridiculous” and viewed it as “selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East” and “killing the competition”.
Others have not been as scathing in their response but wished the players and captains had a bigger say in the matter.
Djokovic, who has competed in Abu Dhabi many times at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition, analysed both sides of the argument and finds himself “somewhere in between”.
The Serb was not a fan of the old format of Davis Cup, where multiple ties were spread out throughout the season, but also does not believe in the single-venue option that was implemented for the first Kosmos-run Finals in Madrid in 2019.
“I like the fact that now there are three different countries that are able to host at least group stages. I would say why not more? Why not have six different countries host one group of three teams?” Djokovic said on Friday after helping Serbia secure victory over Austria in Innsbruck.
“We lost that with the change of format, the possibility for many countries in the World Group to host the tie. I think that is something that people have not reacted well to, and I understand. You need a Davis Cup competition for development of your own national tennis.
“Now when it comes to location, whether it's Abu Dhabi or anywhere else, that's something we have to wait and see officially when it comes out and then discuss. Now it's not official yet.
“There is a lot of interest to bring Davis Cup or any other big tennis competition or sports competition to the Middle East, where economically they're very strong and they can finance the big demands that you have for an organisation of such an important event.
“Now the question is whether you follow the money, so to say, or you follow the tradition, or you find a balance between the two? That's always the big question on anybody's mind. Some people think we should improve, that we should look forward, that we should progress. Some people think we should stick to what the Davis Cup as a competition or as a format was before.
“I'm somewhere in between. I think you need to respect the tradition and the history, and you need to stick to the things that are recognisable that make this competition so important for the sport. At the same time you need to move forward and find new ways to improve the competition.”

Djokovic cruises past Novak to secure tie for Serbia against Austria

Sinner’s ruthless debut

It’s late November, but it seems Jannik Sinner is not done wowing us this season just yet. The 20-year-old has had a dream 2021 campaign that saw him crack the top-10, win four titles, reach a Masters 1000 final and compete in the ATP Finals as an alternate.
On Friday, Sinner made a ruthless Davis Cup debut, defeating towering American John Isner 6-2 6-0 to help secure a 2-1 victory for Italy over USA in Group E action in Turin.
At 208cm tall, Isner is one of the best servers in the history of the game but the American was somehow broken five times by Sinner. The young Italian handed Isner his first bagel since 2010, and is just the second ever player to win a set 6-0 against him in a tour-level match.
Isner, a former world No. 8 who is 16 years older than Sinner, paid full credit to his opponent and gave an honest assessment of the match.
“I definitely ran up against a buzz saw today,” said Isner. “He was entirely too good. I didn't really have a chance out there.”
Sinner spoke about the pressure and responsibility of representing his country in the Davis Cup Finals, even though you couldn’t have detected an iota of nerves in his performance against Isner.
He says it helped that he competed at the very same venue, the Pala Alpitour, last week in the ATP Finals, in front of a roaring home crowd, even if the surface of the court for Davis Cup is relatively slower and has a higher bounce.
“People see me, everyone says that I'm relaxed, but I'm not because I'm human being and we are nervous. We have a lot of pressure,” said Sinner. “I think for us the singles are very, very important because I think we have great singles players. We can make change-ups, as well. Honestly there was a little bit pressure, but it's normal.”

Sinner dominates Isner in Davis Cup showdown

A day of firsts for Italy

Sinner wasn’t the only Italian enjoying a new experience in the competition. Filippo Volandri was in the captain’s seat for the first time, 24-year-old Lorenzo Sonego made a winning Davis Cup debut by defeating Reilly Opelka and 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti got his first taste of the competition in a tight doubles defeat alongside Fabio Fognini against Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram.
“I have to thank for sure Filippo and Fabio who trusted me, who gave me the opportunity to play, to play here in Italy, in Turin. It's a special debut for me,” said Musetti. “Yeah, first match is not easy. But I think we played a great match. We had a lot of chances. Unfortunately we didn't take them all.”
For Sonego, Friday was extra special because he got to experience it all while competing in his hometown of Turin. As a local, it doesn’t get better than representing your country for the first time, getting the win, and doing so in front of your home crowd at an iconic arena that is a stone’s throw away from your house.
“It’s for sure my best tennis game in my life because I play at home. I live 200 metres from here. This for me is amazing, amazing moment,” said Sonego.
“I enjoyed every single moment in the court. I was without pressure because I wanted only to enjoy this moment because the captain chose me for this match. This is unbelievable. It’s for sure my best emotional moment.”
With a classy touch, Sonego dedicated his win to his compatriot Matteo Berrettini, who was forced to withdraw from Davis Cup with an abdominal injury he picked up last week in the ATP Finals.

Sonego shocks Opelka in Davis Cup opener

Veterans capitalise on opportunities

Eighteen years after making his Davis Cup debut, a 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez stepped up for Spain, reporting for duty in the wake of Roberto Bautista Agut’s injury withdrawal and Carlos Alcaraz’s positive Covid-19 test result.
Lopez, who was part of four Davis Cup title-winning squads in the past, was initially called up as a doubles player this week in Madrid but with the hosts struck by a stream of bad luck, he rose to the occasion and earned Spain’s opening point in singles against Ecuador.
“I didn't expect myself representing Spain at 40 years old. It will be always one of my goals to be here in the team because I know how difficult it is to be part of this team because we have a bunch of great players for the last 20 years, I guess,” he said.
“Honestly, it's a gift to be here again and to be playing the singles even more, because this is something I would have never ever expected.
“This is why and I have been training all my life to live moments like this, to be playing in front of my home, in front of my people, my family. Everyone is here watching me play and I cannot be happier.”
Another veteran who has been fighting for years to be part of his nation’s Davis Cup line-up but unlike Lopez has got the call-up for the very first time this week is 37-year-old Rajeev Ram.
USA captain Mardy Fish joked that Ram is probably the oldest rookie in US history.
“It's incredible. It's something I wanted to do my whole career, my whole life really,” said Ram after his doubles win with Sock.
“I waited and kept going and kept playing. Very appreciative that I got the call to do it even now, even though it's a bit later than perhaps most people would have done it. It's not too late at all for me.”

Quote of the day

Ecuador’s Emilio Gomez suffered a heartbreaking 5-7 6-3 7-6(5) defeat to Spanish world No.20 Pablo Carreno Busta and gave an honest account of the mixed emotions he felt after coming so close to pulling off an incredible upset.
The world No.148 said: “It was tough, but at the same time it was pretty incredible to be in that atmosphere. For me it's the first time to be in that kind of match. In 20 years, almost 30 years of my career... Of course, sad, disappointed, angry, a little bit of everything because I wanted to give Ecuador the chance to go have a chance to win the tie.
“Even though most of the people didn't believe it, but this shows that we are capable of doing great things not only in Davis Cup but other things, too, other tournaments.
“Whatever feelings I have now – I don't really feel like happy at all because how it went at the end. I know my head will calm down a little bit and I’ll also realise that was the best experience on a tennis court for me.”

Stats of the day

Spain have now won 12 of their last 14 Davis Cup ties, thanks to their win over Ecuador on Friday,
With his victory over Dennis Novak, Djokovic has now taken sole ownership of the top spot on the list of most Davis Cup match-wins by a Serbian player. His 35th triumph in the competition sees him pass Janko Tipsarevic, who is in second place with 34.
Sock is now a perfect 5-0 in Davis Cup doubles matches, following his success alongside Ram against the Italians.
Davis Cup
Medvedev revels in 'amazing' Davis Cup victory
05/12/2021 AT 23:55
Davis Cup
Russian Tennis Federation here to stay, but change is coming - Davis Cup final diary
05/12/2021 AT 23:51