Gerard Pique branded his new-look Davis Cup finals a success and promised the problems will be ironed out for next year.
The Barcelona defender’s Kosmos group persuaded first the International Tennis Federation and then national governing bodies to back a radical change that has seen the biggest team competition in the sport switch to a World Cup-style format.
Pique has faced opposition and hostility from current and former players, administrators and fans, and there have been plenty of hiccups over the week at Madrid’s Caja Magica, but Pique believes the overall experience has been positive.
— Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals (@DavisCupFinals) November 17, 2019
He said: “When we started, we said: ‘New era, same soul’. I think that the best thing that we can keep from this year is the soul.
“How the players, they cried when they lose. These kind of emotions are just so unique and we have to preserve them.
“So I’m very, very happy that this happened all this week. We are very excited to work very hard for next year and to organise an even bigger and better event.”
This has been very much a personal project for the 32-year-old. It was he who negotiated with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to secure their attendance, while he even contacted a journalist on social media to offer tips on the tournament’s problematic app.
Grab the tissues, this is an emotional one to watch 😢
Hear from @nenadzim after Serbia's loss, describing his team as "The Golden Generation"
— Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals (@DavisCupFinals) November 22, 2019
The big success of the week has been on court. The field has been the strongest for several years – the key driver behind the changes – and the tennis has been packed full of drama and emotion.
Other areas have not been so impressive. Pique announced that more than 130,000 people have attended the event but the matches involving Spain have been the only sell-outs and many other ties saw swathes of empty seats.
Passionate and partisan atmospheres are the essence of Davis Cup for many people and a key question for future years will be whether the event can attract more travelling fans.
Pique is optimistic, saying: “This is the first event of the new format. I think that a lot of people didn’t know what to expect or they didn’t know how the format will go.
THIS. IS. IT.
Canada 🇨🇦 vs Spain 🇪🇸
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) November 24, 2019
“All the countries have brought some fans. And all we want to do for next year is to try to attract them to bring much more people.”
The biggest issue in many ways has been the scheduling. Cramming 25 ties into a venue with only three match courts was always going to be a challenge and teams will insist on changes next year to avoid the situation that saw the last rubber between the USA and Italy end at 4.04am.
Pique revealed organisers are looking at potentially adding another court at the Caja Magica – where the event will stay next year and potentially for 2021 as well – or using a second venue in Madrid.
Issues such as the app and the website, which were full of mistakes and often did not work, should be easily fixed.
Gerard Pique is here for a finals day press conference, says there have been more than 130,000 people through the gates: “These are incredible numbers. You can see the impact in different countries.” pic.twitter.com/W3hJG4vq3b
— Eleanor Crooks (@EleanorcrooksPA) November 24, 2019
Long term, the priority will be securing a better spot in the calendar, which will require Kosmos, the ITF, the ATP – and potentially Roger Federer – to come to an agreement.
One positive for Pique has been the expressions of support this week from Djokovic and Nadal for just one major team competition.
The ATP’s version, the ATP Cup, will have its inaugural edition in just six weeks’ time – a situation that everyone in the sport seems to agree is ridiculous yet did not prevent.
Pique and the ITF would like the Davis Cup to be held in September, but that slot has been claimed by Federer’s very successful Laver Cup, and the two men have been involved in a rather unnecessary war of words through the media.
A post shared by Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) on Nov 23, 2019 at 8:29pm PST
Federer resisted Pique’s overtures to be involved in this event and has instead been on a record-breaking tour of Latin America playing exhibitions against fellow dissenter Alexander Zverev.
Their match in Mexico City on Saturday attracted a world record crowd for a tennis match of more than 42,000.
Pique said of Federer: “He was my idol since (I was) a kid.
“For a lot of reasons, some of them I know and some of them maybe I don’t know, the situation is this one.
“He has Laver Cup and, obviously, it’s his baby, his competition, and he wants to protect and obviously to create as big as possible this exhibition. And I totally understand.
“On our side, what we will try to do is to put Davis Cup obviously on another level because we are talking about 119 years of history. I think that you cannot compare both events.”
Pique is hoping the departure of Chris Kermode as ATP executive chairman and president and the arrival of Italy’s Andrea Gaudenzi will enable a deal to be struck.
“Now there will be some changes, so we are expecting that we can sit down again,” he said.
“ITF and Kosmos, we are really open to sit down with the ATP and try to arrive to a deal, to make a unique competition, a super event of two weeks and try to find the best part in the calendar.
“It makes no sense to have right now two different competitions that are very similar. I hope in the next few months we can announce something.”