Bad start for Italy, but perhaps this Davis Cup has a future


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from Madrid, the director

If the United States does not beat Canada on Wednesday, Italy is very badly placed. Canada with two victories would certainly end up leading the group by qualifying for the quarterfinals and the Azzurri beat the United States of Fritz, Tiafoe, Opelka, Sock and Querrey may not be enough. Assuming this happens. The 2-0 unfavorable to us after the two singles won against the classification by the two Canadians got us in trouble. Too bad because, after much criticism of this new format, I was able to see very long queues by the spectators who took the tickets (average cost just under 50 euros full match of three games, two singles and a double) to follow the three challenges of the first day (Russia-Croatia, Belgium-Colombia, Canada-Italy).

The first match was played on the central court capable of holding 12,500 spectators. It will have had about 6,000 / 7,000, many more than I expected. And also on the field named after Arantxa Sanchez (capacity 3,500 spectators), where Italy and Canada played, I think there were at least 2,500 people. Considering that it was the first day of a new event, it doesn't seem like a bad result.

The organization will have to be run in, those who should give information know too little to give it, they have not been well educated. There is a great deal of confusion and the three stages with differentiated tickets do not help. But the atmosphere is good, beyond the space that is quite cold and unattractive. People arrive with large and small flags, trumpets, drums and so much enthusiasm. The fans in the stands, even though I have been able to follow especially that of Italy-Canada, is typical of the Davis Cup matches even if it is not exactly what we have become used to in the matches in which the home team plays. There was also Spain of futbol in the field against Romania, in Madrid, at the Wanda Metropolitano (the new Atletico stadium) so I presume that some spectators among those who went to the stadium and sat in the sofa in front of the TV football may have taken them away from tennis. My very first impression is that in the end this Cup will take hold, even if it doesn't look like Davis who lived 119 years.

Meanwhile, some federations, like the Canadian one, have done tourism marketing operations to try to ensure a decent support to the team. At least a thousand Canadians were here. And they made a din of hell. Many, however, even the Italians. On one side it was shouted "Let's go Shapo, let's go Shapo", on the other hand incitements were wasted "Matteooo, Matteoo". The most beautiful thing, compared to the football games where the opposing supporters, if they didn't have deserted spaces that separate them, would fight from before the match to after the match, it's that here they were all mixed – except for a few areas – and Italians and Canadians waved their flags side by side. A beautiful manifestation of civilization. Certainly some out of place screams were heard, and at a certain point, in the middle of the third set, Shapovalov began naively to take it out on a slice of the audience from which he felt disturbed. With the good result that the blue faith public obviously took the lead, whistling and buheggiando. The boy has seen fit to do three aces on the 3 even bringing his finger to his ear each time, as if to say "why not whistle now?" a flood of whistles.

For me it was undoubtedly a sharp transition, that from the 02 Arena ATP Finals to the new controversial Davis Cup of the Caja Magica launched with all lobbying by ITF president David Haggerty and financed by Pique's Kosmos, Rakuten's Japanese sponsors and … also by Mrs Pique, aka Shakira (but will she have paid?), Who takes advantage of this event to promote her tour musical "El Dorado" with a banner on the field. And it will be you, the Colombian singer whose video you will remember risque with Rafa Nadal who made so much discussion, to close the Davis week here with his performance.

I arrived only in the afternoon from Heathrow, thus losing part of the match of Fognini-Pospisil. I don't think I've lost much. To attend Berrettini's debut at the Masters against Djokovic, I had thrown the plane ticket I bought months before when not even the Magician Ubaldo had foreseen that Berrettini would have arrived in the elite of the eight Masters, and even less that he would have played him first at 14 on Sunday, because I really didn't want to miss it, 41 years after seeing Barazzutti at Madison Square Garden. I had thus changed my plans by giving up seeing the final of the Next Gen dominated by Sinner on De Minaur and I had bought myself a new plane ticket and an unexpected night at the hotel.

But then, after the 6-2 6-1 imposed by Djokovic in 63 minutes scarce, I was regretful enough to have changed all the original programs. So this time, when Italy was also drawn for its match against Canada on the first day of the new Davis, even if they swore with these draws that do not give breath between one tournament and another, I have kept the original travel plan and, yes, I missed the first stages of the Fognini match, but in sufficient time anyway to see that between the Pospisil service and that of Fognini there were on average 30 km of gap per hour.

This was predictable, but it was not obvious that the camp was so fast. So much so that not by chance Shapovalov and Berrettini have played three sets without ever being able to break. Sorry that Matteo ahead of a minibreak, 4-3 and two services in the tiebreak of the third set, has wrong a straight easy volee putting Shapovalov back into the race that seemed to be doomed. Always a wrong turn, but on the net, it had cost the first set to Matteo. There is always talk of backhand and footwork to be improved for Matteo, but I instead twice against Federer and one against Djokovic I saw him make exactly the same kind of blow. He stands next to him, he pushes the ball a little too far, almost always puts it on the net when the point is important.

Good in Berrettini's match, however well played, there was that the team's participation in the corner became more intense, warmer. During the Fognini match the claque she was a little dull, a little sluggish. Tomorrow I will try to understand more things here, since Italy does not play. The hours seem crazy to me. On this first day it ended well past midnight and we started playing at 4pm. Today the first three matches begin at 11am, at 6pm those in the evening. Will we finish at two? Newspapers close the typography before the double begins. If Berrettini had won last night, no newspaper reader would have known who had won between Canada and Italy. True that the newspapers are already dying, but this helps to speed up the de profundis.

A mistake also seems to me prevent journalists from approaching players or managers before the conclusion of the double. Certainly we must not disturb those who are about to enter the field, but the others? Can you imagine how they want to talk at 2 am, captain and players, especially if they are defeated?

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