Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Other Fed in Tennis

I really wish Fed Cup was more awesome. I also wish Davis Cup was more awesome, but it's not struggling with quite the same level of not-awesome as Fed Cup is. It's not that the tennis is any less good (within the normal ATP/WTA parameters anyway, considering that men's tennis is in a golden age and women's tennis is not) but hardly any of the top players seem to have a desire to play Fed Cup, and that is not good.

The Davis Cup is one of those accessories that players like to have, a good trophy to have on the shelf. It's not a Slam or anything, but it is a rare opportunity for players to represent their nations and play as a team, not an individual. Even Federer, a pathological non-player of Davis Cup, has said he would like to win it one day... though this may be because it is the only trophy his decorated mantlepiece is missing. It's played at stupid times and is not well organised, but Davis Cup has prestige.

Whereas Fed Cup... not so much.

Look at Russia, powerhouse of women's tennis. They have Safina, Sharapova, Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Zvonareva... a virtually inexhaustible stream of top women. Yet who is playing? Sveta, sure, after she declared herself available at the last minute, and Alisa Kleybanova, who, while not crappy, is not exactly top ten. They're playing Serbia, who do have two former #1s in Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, but with the form of these two players at the moment, Russia should be crushing them. Instead, it's one-all.

And Belgium! Clijsters and Henin, hello? But no, it's Wickmayer and Flipkens stepping up to the plate. USA? Should be Williams and Williams. But no, it's Oudin and Mattek-Sands. The top women just don't play Fed Cup.

But you know the very first step to making Fed Cup more appetising for these top players? Do not schedule it the week after a Slam. This is not rocket science. Davis Cup is also guilty of this. If you want your top players in there, you have to schedule it at a time wherein they haven't, say, played seven five set matches in a row.

This is not a new rant. But that does not make it any less true. If Davis and Fed Cups are going to become truly awesome, then they need to schedule it better.

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