The ATP Tour takes a quick break this week in order to accommodate a bunch of Davis Cup Qualifiers to be played March 6-7 in venues around the globe. The Tour resumes March 12 when the first of two sensational tournaments, known collectively as the Sunshine Double, take place.
The first takes place in the desert of Southern California, and is considered a very big tournament on both the men’s and women’s tennis calendar. The BNP Paribas Open (aka Indian Wells), and last year introduced the world to Canada’s fantastic teenager, Bianca Andreescu, who fought her way to last year’s title before succumbing to injuries which wrecked her entire summer. She resurfaced in time to win the Canadian and the U.S. Opens, but most folks got their first glimpse of the rising teenager at Indian Wells.
The men saw Austrian Dominick Thiem win the title by stopping Roger Federer in the finals. Thiem had beaten Milos Raonic and Federer had knocked out Rafael Nadal in the semis to advance to their epic finals match. Top-seeded Novak Djokovic had been surprised and upset by German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-4 in the second round, which deprived Djokovic the opportunity to follow-up his title in Melbourne with one here in the States.
The 10-day tournament in the California desert is followed up by the Miami Open, a full two-week, co-ed event that takes place in South Florida. It’s had a few homes over the years, and to call it the Miami Open is a bit of a misnomer because it really is now played in Broward County, just north of Miami. But wherever this event is held, it is still a giant that the players all circle or highlight on their calendars. The conclusion of these events lead the Tours into the European clay court season, which officially begins in April. This, obviously, culminates with the French Open, and after a three week run to practice on grass, that leads into Wimbledon and then the American hard court summer season.
But first, the Davis Cup. The ITF has, in its wisdom, changed the makeup of the Davis Cup. It still is a team event that involves a global competition made up of teams picked to represent most international countries. The Davis Cup has its own history, rules, and popularity, as well as its own unusual scheduling so now the Tour must make room for these teams to actually compete, and whether it’s a good thing that the ITF made it’s closet-full of monumental changes or not, the new rules went into effect last year.
As the event has been taking place ever since 1900, there are varying opinions as to when, why, and where any changes would be needed. It could be argued that the event needed some kind of makeover after 120 years. Of course, it could also be argued that as a success for over a century, it was doing just fine, and why mess with something that has been working for over a century? Whether the change in scheduling that upset the entire makeup of the Davis Cup is effective, welcomed, or even successful, only time will tell, as some players like it, some players hate it, and some players have argued that it should merge with the Laver Cup in order to proceed and succeed.
So the scheduling for this year’s Davis Cup Qualifiers include India visiting Croatia, Belgium traveling to Hungary, Argentina playing in Colombia, Uzbekistan goes against the U.S.A. in Honolulu, Brazil challenges Australia, South Korea knocks on Italy’s door, Belarus jets to Germany, The Netherlands plays in Kazakhstan, The Czech Republic motors to Slovakia, Uruguay challenges Austria, Ecuador visits Japan (which will play its matches without spectators, in a nod to the coronavirus), and Chile takes on Sweden in Stockholm.
In my next article I want to highlight the women's players to watch in one or both of the Sunshine Double tournaments. Certainly, the first few women who come to mind are Andreescu, Sofia Kenin, Naomi Osaka and Amanda Anisimova. So expect some info on those four extremely talented “new kids on the block”.