The 2015 Davis Cup is over and the ‘team’ event has been won by Great Britain. Andy Murray defeated Belgium’s David Goffin in straight sets on Sunday to give the Brits a 3-1 victory in the final tie. The win marks the first victory in the event for the British since 1936, but perhaps it also highlights the need for the Davis Cup, as a team competition, to better test the depth of a country’s tennis talent. After all, the victory for the ‘British team’ is largely a credit to Andy Murray and no one else.
Murray was a part of all three victories that the Brits needed to win the 2015 Davis Cup. He won two singles matches and he was on the doubles team that won the third rubber. While he couldn’t have won the doubles match without a partner, that fact only affords a sliver of credit to another player involved in British tennis. The Davis Cup can’t quite be won by one player, however if an elite player like Murray is playing his best then, we have to admit, it barely takes another. That makes the notion of the Davis Cup being a team event almost dubious.
The event would probably be a lot more interesting if it moved to best-of-seven rubbers, at least for the final two rounds. That would require four victories and, with matches best-of-five sets, it would be very risky for one player to play in all four matches without facing a realistic threat of injury or at least fatigue. That in turn would force peripheral players into the limelight more often than the current format does. In turn, the Davis Cup would better reveal the country that has the best depth of tennis talent – something a team competition should reveal.
Murray, almost always a class act, interviewed as a member of a team. Accordingly, he took credit using the plural pronoun as opposed to the singular:
“It feels amazing. I never thought WE would have the opportunity to do this. I can’t believe WE did it,” the Scot said (emphasis added).
Murray won, either single-handedly or with a doubles partner, 11 of the 12 matches that Great Britain won this year in the Davis Cup. If the event did move to best-of-seven then a true team would need to win 16 matches to win the event, not just 12. With a player like Murray winning or contributing to 11 victories again, that would still leave a balance of 5 matches for the scrubs to pick up – not just one.
Currently, the best countries for tennis depth are both Spain and France in my opinion. Those are the nations that have tough players to beat even when you get well past their No. 1s. For example, Spain’s No. 4 is Roberto Bautista-Agut while France’s No. 4 is Benoit Paire. Each of those two players would likely rip apart the No. 2s of both Belgium and Great Britain.
However, under the current format, it’s the latter who gets the credit for having the best tennis ‘team.’ While the Brits are celebrating that fact, I think the one-player-dominated results highlight the need for change if Davis Cup titles are truly to be regarded as reflections on a team.