PPerfectly styled with tailor-made suits, Gerard Piqué and David Ferrer suddenly appeared at the training session of the German national team. One, Piqué, recently ended his football career as a world-class defender for FC Barcelona. In the tennis bubble, he has also become known as an up-and-coming businessman with the multi-billion dollar consortium “Kosmos” – as a radical reformer of the Davis Cup organized by the world association ITF, including loud criticism that he had sold the soul of the competition. Piqué appointed the other, former tennis pro Ferrer, as tournament director of the Davis Cup finals. This week it’s taking place in the southern Spanish city of Malaga.
The event has been produced as a glossy product since the reform in 2018, which was pushed through with hard bandages and many millions of dollars, the mode has been adapted every year. A final tournament similar to the European Football Championship with 16 national teams, lots of teething problems and not enough spectators has turned into a final with eight teams this year. You have to qualify in a classic away or home game and in a subsequent intermediate round with four teams each at four locations in September. The aim of the change was to create more of the old Davis Cup atmosphere with loud home fans. So far, this has only worked selectively. In the intermediate round in Hamburg, for example, the Emotion agency responsible set far too high ticket prices. The German games were moderate, the other games poorly attended.
More fans, more atmosphere
In Malaga, however, there is reason to hope for the first time that the former prestigious event will gain in value again. Tickets are available in combination packages from 40 euros. In the first quarter-final on Tuesday between Australia and the Netherlands, almost 8,000 fans flocked to the multi-purpose hall “Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena”, which was converted into a single center court. More than 600 Oranje fans created a remarkable atmosphere despite their team’s defeat. The quarterfinals of the Spaniards on Wednesday were almost sold out with around 10,000 fans and were partly reminiscent of Germany’s 2018 quarterfinals in the old format in the bullring in Valencia.
Back to Málaga: Piqué and Ferrer, with their neat demeanor, are exemplary for this glossy product, which is still irritating. During German reunification, however, they did not fit into the picture of the down-to-earth Davis Cup squad with their team structure that had grown over the years in the old mode. Under the direction of captain Michael Kohlmann, the selection of the basics for the quarter-finals against the favorite Canadian team around the top players Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov was fine-tuned this Thursday (around 4 p.m. on Servus TV and DAZN).
“Nobody in the team has a big ego”
In the absence of Alexander Zverev, who is still injured, the team is the star. A team that surprisingly stormed into the semi-finals in 2021 with a similar line-up, where they lost to eventual winners Russia, which is suspended due to the war of aggression against Ukraine in 2022. “Nobody in the team has a big ego, that’s the most important thing. Also, the feature team is very cool for the players – packed with all sorts of different characters, which makes the days very, very fun. That has a very positive effect and puts you in a good mood,” says doubles specialist Kevin Krawietz.
Together with Frankfurt’s Tim Pütz, he is still undefeated in the Davis Cup and will also be on the ATP tour with his partner in the coming season. In the tennis scene, the end of Krawietz and Andreas Mies, together at least two French Open winners, was a big deal; here in Málaga it is only a minor issue – the team counts for everyone involved.
The performance data speak for themselves anyway. Across all players, the DTB team has been undefeated in doubles for 15 matches. “It speaks for itself, above all there were many games where the score was 1-1. It shows that everyone has the feeling that the team stands together and doesn’t give up. It just happened over time,” explains long-serving captain Kohlmann, who also states as a bargaining chip that the team, with the exception of Zverev, has stayed together in this form all year since the away game in Brazil. “It’s a very special group sitting together here.”
The training times on the match court were few and far between. The fast hard court has been tested three times since arriving on Saturday by the team led by long-time Davis Cup player Jan-Lennard Struff. Struff, who slipped to 152 in the world rankings after a complicated year due to injury, is still considered the leader of the team. He and Oscar Otte, who is slowly getting back into shape after a meniscus operation, at position one of the line-up are faced with the mammoth task of having to “steal” a single against Shapovalov (probably against Struff) and Auger-Aliassime. If that succeeds, Germany would suddenly be the favorite with Krawietz/Pütz in the mode with two singles and one double.