It's time to change the Davis Cup format

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PHILADELPHIA (Sports Network) - I agree with tennis icons such as Andre Agassi who say the prestigious Davis Cup tournament needs to be revamped to occur every two years, similar to golf's Ryder Cup event.

The Davis Cup format has remained the same for 100 years, but let's face it, sports have changed over the last century, and tennis is not immune to the differences.

Agassi feels that the Davis Cup competition too often conflicts with his tight schedule...and you'd have to agree. Agassi wanted to play Davis Cup tennis, but he's also interested in earning millions of dollars on the grueling ATP circuit, which, this year, has a still- laughable less-than-a-month off-season.

While competing in Melbourne at the Australian Open, Agassi all but dismissed the idea of ever playing Davis Cup again. "I don't have it in me anymore. I just don't," said Agassi.

The American superstar is unlikely to play Davis Cup because its annual format will remain intact until at least 2003. "If they (U.S. Davis Cup team) still want me past three years from now...that's either going to speak greatly for how good I still am or how tough a situation America's tennis is in."

"I believe there are solutions to it," said the 30-year-old Agassi. "But a lot of people need to get together to make it happen, and I'm just a little skeptical if that's going to happen. And I certainly know by participating, it's just not in the cards for me."

Last year, the legend that is John McEnroe quit as U.S. Davis Cup captain. One reason he cited for his resignation was an inability to convince fellow tennis legends Pete Sampras and Agassi to commit to Davis Cup in 2001.

With a brilliant record of 30-5, only Johnny Mac (41-8) has more Davis Cup singles wins for the USA than the great Agassi.

Sampras, who turned pro in 1988, is just 14-7 in Davis Cup play, averaging less than two Cup singles matches per year.

Davis Cup is clearly a tremendous event for the sport, it unites fans who rally around their stars to win one for the flag. But it really needs to be held every two years because of the increasingly- taxing tour schedule. If a team does well in Davis Cup play, each athlete is forced to devote four weeks out of the year in order to participate. That seems extreme, especially when the event's dragged out over a 12-month period. The Ryder Cup in golf is only for one week every two years, and by the time it rolls around fans are chomping at the bit and couldn't be more supportive, with the theatre of it all resonating as a global sporting event.

Let's change the Davis Cup format to accommodate the game's top performers, i.e. Agassi and Sampras. Let's stage the tourney every two years, either before or after the Grand Slam season.

It's a thought.

Tennis fans adore Davis Cup action, but because it's so spread out every year and staged in countries all over the globe, it becomes very difficult for television networks and the USTA to give it proper promotion in the U.S. I think it would be in the best interest of players, fans and networks alike to reserve part of the year solely for the Davis Cup in order for it to get the exposure it so richly deserves.

A revised format proposed by the likes of Agassi, Sampras and McEnroe could only create a much more entertaining product for the fans. A two-week tournament, with a World Cup-like atmosphere, colorful team uniforms, a diversified, vocal, flag-waving crowd, would be do wonders for the event. A far cry from the currently-tedious and difficult-to-appreciate format.

The top American players will return to Davis Cup...when the format becomes more forgiving.

The 31-time Cup champion U.S. will play Switzerland in the first round in Basel next month -- sans Pete and Andre.

Who will new American captain Patrick McEnroe throw at the Swiss?

Quite honestly, who cares?

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