The start times for Friday’s Davis Cup quarter-finals matches have been brought forward by 30 minutes in an attempt to curtail the late finishes that have plagued the tournament, culminating in a 4am finish for the USA’s doubles match against Italy.
The tournament is the first Davis Cup in the revamped Finals format, with all matches being played across a single week, and its first few days in Madrid have suffered from late finishes. With a single match potentially consisting of 18 sets of tennis each, and only three courts available at Madrid’s La Caja Mágica, organisers have struggled to squeeze the action in.
The USA-Italy tie – essentially a dead rubber, as both nations had already been eliminated – did not start until gone 8pm on Thursday, after the previous match overran. Its 4:04am finish was the second-latest-ever end to a professional tennis match, behind the 4:34am conclusion of the Australian Open third-round game between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis in 2008. Spain’s clash with Russia the previous night ran until 2am.
Today’s (Friday) quarter finals began at 10:30am local time, half an hour sooner than originally planned.
While organiser Kosmos Tennis will seek a solution ahead of next year’s Finals, in truth it will have relatively few options. It has already committed to returning to La Caja Mágica, which has no further capacity for extra courts in order to play more matches simultaneously. Novak Djokovic’s suggestion to reduce the number of teams to eight will be resisted, given the extra revenue and interest generated by having 18 nations competing.
Britain’s Jamie Murray has proposed that the event be expanded across two venues, though this would introduce additional costs and difficulties for organisers.
In September, Gerard Piqué, the Barcelona football player who founded Kosmos, told SportBusiness that new hosts were being investigated for 2021 and beyond, with Tokyo under serious consideration.