I may be in a minority of one in the United Kingdom right now, but I have always found the Davis Cup a rather unsatisfactory and unsatisfying competition.
The event, whose 2015 edition was captured on Sunday (November 29) by Great Britain for the first time since 1936, is generally billed as the premier international team competition in men’s tennis.
And, at its best, like golf’s Ryder Cup, it can bring some of the most positive ingredients of team sports to a primarily individual game.
What has always rankled with me is the format, which consists of four singles matches and one doubles over three days, with each counting for one point.
This means that when you have a player as talented and motivated as Britain’s Andy Murray, he can almost win the cup all by himself, by claiming two singles rubbers and taking a dominant role in the doubles.
Don’t misunderstand me: for the reigning men’s Olympic tennis champion to anchor Great Britain to victory in Ghent last weekend, and over preceding rounds, was an extraordinary feat of nerve, athleticism and sheer stamina. But for a team competition it seems all wrong.
The good news is that a solution appears self-evident, at least for one such as me who is innocent of the labyrinths of tennis politics; the bad news is that I suspect there is only slightly more chance of it actually happening than of Wimbledon switching to clay.
This solution? Combine the Davis Cup with its women’s counterpart.
Even if you retained in essence the same format, with a mixed doubles contest thrown in, either as the centre-piece or perhaps the grand finale, teams would require a minimum of four athletes over 11 games, with a single individual capable of landing, or having a hand in landing, at most four of the six points required for victory. This seems a better balance for a team competition.
As a bonus, you would be able to consign the linguistically horrid “Fed Cup” - as I was appalled to learn the one-time Federation Cup, the main international team event in women’s tennis, has been titled since 1995 - to the dustbin of ill-advised abbreviations.
While reading up about the competitions, I was intrigued to see that David Haggerty, new President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), had told insidethegames’s Daniel Etchells, prior to being elected, that reviewing their formats was on top of his list of priorities if he won.
What Haggerty seemed to have in mind though was compressing the competitions so they would be played, from beginning to end, over a two week period at the end of the season. And while he mentioned them coming together in one destination, I don’t think he meant to suggest a merger of the tournaments.
The international tennis calendar is so gruelling - in part because of the travel demands - that you would not want to do anything to further burden the players. So confining tennis’s team-play ‘season’ to one location and a two-week slot seems a good idea.
If that is going to be the new aim, then why not create a single team tournament really worthy of the name for both genders?
A tournament which, if all top players are fit and motivated, would have a better chance of being awarded to the world’s top tennis nation, rather than a nation that has produced one outstandingly good male or female player.