Friday, December 8, 2023

Davis Cup 2023: the tennis world looks at Malaga again this week

As happened last year, the Martín Carpena Sports Palace It will be the scene of the final point of the tennis season, hosting the Final 8 of the Davis Cup. Six days of competition, between November 21 and 26, in which eight teams will try to raise the ‘Salad Bowl’ that accredits the champion and their fans will fill the stands and surroundings of the pavilion with color, where the great atmosphere is expected to repeat lived last year. Canadaas current champion, Italy and, above all, the Serbia of Novak Djokovic, disembark on the Costa del Sol as the big favorites to win the title. The poster is completed Finlandthe surprising Czechia, Australia -finalist last year-, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

With disappointment for the non-qualification of Spain for these Finals After the fiasco in the Valencia qualifiers held in September, the presence of the world number one, of countries with a large presence of compatriots on the Costa del Sol – apart from the British, there are important ‘colonies’ of Italians, Finns and Dutch residing on the Costa del Sol- and the non-coincidence with the soccer World Cup as happened last year with Qatarinvite us to think that this new edition (the last one in Malaga?) will once again be a public success like the one in 2022. This was confirmed this Thursday by the vice-counselor of the General Secretariat for Sports of the Junta de Andalucía, José María Arrabal, at the reception of the ‘Salad Bowl‘: “Practically everything is sold, there is approximately 80% capacity that has already been completed.” In fact, the highlight of the quarterfinals, Serbia – Great Britain on Thursday, has sold out a week before its celebration.

Without Kosmos – the company Gerard Piqué– at the forefront of the tournament and far from the tennis circuit, it is unknown whether the world team championship will repeat in the future in Malaga, which has confirmed the dispute until 2026 of the Valencia qualifiers.

The 8 teams of the Davis Cup Finals

  • Australia: Alex de Minaur, Max Purcell, Jordan Thompson, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Matthew Ebden
  • Canada: Felix Auger-Aliassime, Gabriel Diallo, Alexis Galarneau, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic
  • Czechia: Jiri Lehecka, Tomas Machac, Jakub Mensik and Adam Pavlasek
  • Finland: Emil Ruusuvuori, Otto Virtanen, Patrick Kaukovalta, Harri Heliovaara and Patrik Niklas-Salminen
  • Britain: Cameron Norrie, Andy Murray, Jack Draper, Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury
  • Italy: Jannik Sinner, Lorenzo Musetti, Matteo Arnaldi, Lorenzo Sonego and Simone Bolelli
  • Netherlands: Tallon Griekspoor, Botic van de Zandschulp, Gijs Brouwer, Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julian Rojer
  • Serbia: Novak Djokovic, Laslo Djere, Dusan Lajovic, Miomir Kecmanovic and Hamad Medjedovic

Be that as it may, in just three days the Carpena will once again experience a tennis festival that, despite not having a ‘local team’ or a large list of leading figures, it is a unique opportunity to see the best tennis here on the Costa del Sol, since the emerging challenger Málaga Open that is held very close by, in Inacua, has not yet brought together big names. Ignoring number one Novak Djokovic and the Italian Jannik Sinner (4) -let’s be positive and think that they will conclude their participation in the ATP Finals in optimal conditions to come to Malaga- the rest of the tennis players who will be in Carpena are outside the top ten of the ATP ranking: Alex de Minaur (12) or Cameron Norrie (18) are, in terms of classification, the most prominent names of the eight calls for the Finals, among which the presence of the Canadian must be highlighted Felix Auger-Aliassime, great protagonist of last year’s finals; the Czech sensation who is only 18 years old Jakub Mensik; or the presence of a former world number one, Grand Slam winner and double Olympic gold Andy Murraywho knows if he will have an important role in Thursday’s tie.

Djokovic and Sinner greet each other after their match in the group stage of the ATP Finals in Turin. ALESSANDRO DI MARCO

The favorites

A priori, one might think that Anything other than a final between Serbia and Canada or Australia next Sunday would be an absolute surprise. Novak Djokovic, in great form after a new exhibition at the ATP Finals in Turin, will seek to command his country for what would be his second salad bowl. The Balkans will debut against Great Britain, which does not seem like a rival despite having among its squad a former world number one and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Andy Murray. It does seem like a threat, and a quite serious one, that of the Italian Jannik Sinner, a hypothetical rival in Saturday’s semifinals if the transalpines beat the Netherlands in their quarterfinal duel and who Last Tuesday he broke the Serbian’s winning streak in a great match.

On the other side of the picture, in principle less attractive, Canada should easily surpass Finland Despite the mediocre season of his main racket, Felix Auger-Aliassime, with only one tournament behind him, the ATP 500 in Basel a little less than a month ago, and only reaching the quarterfinals in Indian Wells in the Masters 1000 and in the four ‘big ones’ of the year. Even so, everything points to a repeat of the 2022 final in the semifinal next Friday between the North American team and Australia, which, led by Alex de Miñaur, will have to overcome the surprising Czech Republic, which with an extremely young team will try to confirm his good feelings after some immaculate qualifying rounds in Valencia, in which they left out Spain, beating both Alejandro Davidovich, Bernabe Zapata and company, like the other two teams in their group – Serbia and South Korea – winning all their games.

Atmosphere during last year’s grand final at Carpena. Gregorio Marrero

Beyond sport

The Davis Cup Finals, since the current format of a single venue was established, are not only of sporting interest. Last year, at this same time, Málaga received more than 27,000 visitors during the competition week at Carpena. A pavilion that, according to the organization’s own figures, registered a total of 61,956 spectators -Djokovic among them-, with an average of more than 10,000 per day. The hotels in the capital of the Costa del Sol reached 85% occupancy on the weekend of the semi-finals and final, and 75% the rest of the week. And all this, in the midst of an event of even more international scope such as the World Cup in Qatar. This 2023, with almost all the paper sold for days, everything indicates that success is once again assured, at least on an economic level.

The esplanade in front of Carpena will host numerous activities for fans. Alex Zea

Quarterfinal action will begin on Tuesday, with the Canada – Finland (4pm), followed by Czechia – Australia (Wednesday the 22nd, 4pm) and the double session on Thursday the 23rd: Italy – Netherlands (10am) and Serbia – Great Britain (Not before 4pm). The semi-finals They will be played over two days: the winner of Tuesday and the winner of Wednesday will meet on Friday the 24th, starting at 4:00 p.m., while the winners of Thursday’s qualifiers will play on Saturday the 25th, starting at 12:00 noon. The grand final will be on Sundaystarting at 4 p.m.

Thus, Málaga is once again prepared to host the final phase of the tournament with the unknown of the next editions, where Valencia is assured of the dispute of the ‘qualifiers’ until 2026, strongly opposing hosting the Final 8. Be a ‘goodbye’ or a ‘see you later’, Málaga once again becomes the center of attention of world tennis this week. Let’s enjoy it.


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