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Davis Cup Finals: Move to Abu Dhabi would be ‘selling soul’ – Lleyton Hewitt

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Australian Davis Cup team, including captain Lleyton Hewitt
Lleyton Hewitt (left) oversaw Australia’s opening Davis Cup Finals tie on Thursday, which they lost to Croatia

Australia’s Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt says moving the competition to Abu Dhabi would be “selling the soul” of it.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) board will decide next week whether to move the Finals to the Middle East for the next five years.

The deal has been brokered by their commercial partner Kosmos, founded by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique.

“I think it’s ridiculous – it’s not what Davis Cup is about,” said Hewitt.

He was speaking after Australia were beaten 3-0 by Croatia in their opening group match of this year’s Finals in Turin.

“So if they are going and selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East for another five years, they are really killing the competition,” he added.

“Some of my greatest memories were playing in Davis Cup semis and finals, in front of packed houses, and it didn’t matter if it was in Australia, or it was away.

“The atmosphere was incredible. Davis Cup was held in the highest regard – it was up there with the pinnacle of our sport in men’s tennis.”

The 2002 Wimbledon champion has been a constant critic of the 18-team end-of-year Finals, a format which began in 2019.

Former world number one Hewitt would like home and away ties and five-set matches to remain at the heart of the event, which is now in its 121st year.

And he has never been a fan of Pique’s involvement.

“It’s being run by a soccer player and his company so it’s totally different to anything tennis has been through in the past. The ITF certainly didn’t come to me and ask my thoughts,” the 40-year-old said.

“But we didn’t have input four years ago, so I’m not sure it’s going to matter much now.”

The move has also not been well received by players, with some warning privately they will not be prepared to travel to the Middle East so late in the year.

With Kosmos believed to have lost tens of millions of dollars on the 2019 event, something had to change and the fee it is set to receive from Abu Dhabi would significantly ease its financial burden.

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