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Spicing up the Davis Cup

Jo Carter November 20, 2012
© PA Photos
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The tennis season reached a fitting climax in Prague on Sunday when the Davis Cup final went to a decisive fifth rubber. In the 100th edition of the sport's oldest team competition, Radek Stepanek emerged as an unlikely hero as he defeated Nicolas Almagro to clinch a dramatic 3-2 victory for Czech Republic - who last lifted the trophy as Czechoslovakia back in 1980.

International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti has ruled out making any major changes to the competition despite calls for changes to the event. Whether a radical overhaul or minor tweaks, we've come up with a few tongue-in-cheek ideas to add a bit of spice to the Davis Cup.

The Tennis World Cup
Copy football's model with a big-money tournament every four years with regional qualifying and play-offs in the years running up to the event (defending champions and hosts exempt of course). Chair umpires would be permitted to send players off, and up to three substitutions may be made during a single match. If a player opted to use his hand rather than his racket, that's OK as long as the umpire didn't see it. There'd be a Golden Racket award for most aces, and of course elaborate celebrations on every point scored is essential. And of course, you can forget about HawkEye - there's no room for technology at the World Cup.

Ryder Cup Tennis
In golf, it's USA versus Europe. In tennis, given that nine of the world's current top 10 are European, it might have to be Europe taking on the rest of the world. The event would take place every two years, alternating between locations in Europe and elsewhere, with the hosts choosing the surface and order of events. Players qualify through their results at tournaments through the two-year cycle with space for two captain's wildcards. We'd have singles, doubles (foursomes) and a new groundbreaking format where four balls are in play at once (fourballs). And terrible team outfits in apricot and lime green are a prerequisite.

Novak Djokovic would be in trouble if he smashed his racket in 'Formula Tennis' © Getty Images
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The Tennis Ashes
Forget Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal's marathon in the 2012 Australian Open final, players will be required to play for five days (albeit with lunch and tea breaks). New balls would be available every 80 sets, and the captain would likely utilise his fast servers first before turning to the topspin specialists. What's more, players could be battling it out on court for five days only to be forced to settle for a draw. And beware Rafael Nadal; you will be fined for taking your time between points. It's just not cricket.

Ultimate Tennis
Based on the UFC's The Ultimate Fighter television series, this would be tennis meets Big Brother. The players would all live together and cameras follow their progress as they trained and competed for a prized wildcard at Wimbledon. Players would also be required to compete in challenges such as a race or tug-of-war and risk elimination from the tournament. Then, at the end of the competition, the two coaches would go head-to-head - think Ivan Lendl taking on John McEnroe.

Formula Tennis
With two players on each team, never has technology and tactics played a greater part than just talent. Just as Formula One prohibits refuelling during the race, players would have to make their tennis racket last for a whole match, which would be bad news for Novak Djokovic. But of course if Djokovic did break his racket, his team-mate would be forced to hand over his. Forget rain stopping play, a wet court would only make things more interesting, especially if players had opted to wear shoes with slick soles. And of course, Germany would dominate.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk