Soul of the Davis Cup being sold: Hewitt

Ian ChadbandAAP
Lleyton Hewitt was as vociferous at courtside as he was in later slamming Davis Cup chiefs.
Camera IconLleyton Hewitt was as vociferous at courtside as he was in later slamming Davis Cup chiefs. Credit: AP

Lleyton Hewitt has slammed organisers of the Davis Cup over a prospective move of tennis's premier men's team event to the Middle East, saying they will be selling the soul of the historic competition by hosting the finals in Abu Dhabi.

Australia's team captain said on Thursday the prospective lucrative move, which could result in event owners Kosmos Tennis - run by Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique - shifting the event to the UAE capital for five years was "ridiculous".

Hewitt, who's been a long-standing opponent of all the changes to the competition in recent years, launched his tirade after Australia lost an opening-round tie in the finals in a sparsely-populated arena in Turin, one of three venues being used around Europe.

"I've only heard a rumour but I think it's ridiculous, it's not what Davis Cup is about," said Hewitt, following the 3-0 loss to Croatia.

"The Davis Cup was held in the highest regard, up there with the pinnacle of our sport in tennis - with matches played over five sets.

"We threw that out the door and then we've thrown the home and away out the door as well. Playing a qualifying tie here or there, best of three sets (in the recent revamped format), is not the same as having home and away, main draw matches over the year.

"So if they're going and selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East for another five years, I think it's ridiculous, and they're really killing the competition.

"I've been pretty vocal about the whole thing for the last four or five years now. This is a wonderful stadium here tonight, but it's not a massive crowd, it's not what Davis Cup is about.

"Some of my greatest memories were playing in Davis Cup semis or finals in front of packed houses and it didn't matter if it was in Australia or away, the atmosphere was incredible.

"We sit back, me and Tony Roche and tell these young guys stories about when we played in those situations. I'm just really disappointed now. Guys like Alex (de Minaur) would do anything to be in that situation to play in those big matches.

"I know what (the old Davis Cup) meant to the top guys, it meant the world. There is something really special about this competition."

The talk of Abu Dhabi getting a long-term deal met with a cool response from France and Great Britain too, with captains calling for further discussions.

Asked if he felt the national captains could all get an input into the future of the event, Hewitt laughed: "We didn't have input four years ago, mate, so I'm not sure it's going to matter much now.

"It's being run by a soccer player and his company and it's completely different to anything tennis has been through in the past.

"The ITF (International Tennis Federation) certainly didn't come to me and ask my thoughts or pretty much any Australian who has had pretty much the richest tradition in this competition for over 100 years."

But Hewitt won't entertain the idea of a boycott of the event.

"I haven't ever thought about boycotting Davis Cup or matches for our country," he said.

"It's lost something really special about it but these guys get an opportunity to wear the green and gold and the chance to play for Australia."

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