Before I start I'd like to apologize for my lack of activity during the past couple of weeks.  Holding a full-time job, taking online college classes, being involved in a fantasy football league that requires constant attention in order to talk the most trash, and being the laziest person I know makes it really difficult to find time to write about tennis.  Hopefully something major happens in the sport like more drug suspensions and more coaches/fathers assaulting the hitting partners of their players/sons.  Steroids and violence are so easy to write about, that's why there are so many stories about A-Roid and Aaron Hernandez.  On to the tennis story...

On paper, the Davis Cup, tennis' annual event that determines which country has the best group of men's players, sounds like a great idea.  The top sixteen countries qualify for the tournament each year, while other countries also compete in a "loser's bracket" to try to qualify for next year's event.  Countries that lose in the first round of the "main draw" or "winner's bracket" are sent down to the "loser's bracket", and must do well in that tournament if they want to qualify for next year's Davis Cup.  Each round is contested over a weekend, with a country needing to win at least three out of the five matches (two singles matches on Friday, a doubles match on Saturday, and reverse singles matches on Sunday) to advance.  The home team has the ability to choose the venue and the surface each round is contested on, which can become a huge home-field advantage.  Crowds at the Davis Cup are unlike normal tennis fans, as they are allowed and encouraged to get loud and rowdy, sounding at times more like soccer fans than tennis fans.  All of the top players participate in the Davis Cup, with the pride of winning a prestigious event for their home country outweighing the rankings points that they receive for playing.

Sounds like a great event, right?  Then how come no one really talks about the Davis Cup or even pays attention to it?  It has nothing to do with the United States' recent struggles in the event, as the U.S. has made it to the finals just once in the past nine years.  It has everything to do with the scheduling of the event.  The tournament starts in February and ends in November.  That's right, it takes ten months to determine which country has the best men's tennis squad.  It's hard enough to pay attention to a two-week tournament nevermind a ten-month one.  The best team in February may not be the best team in November due to injuries or just being burnt out playing in so many tournaments throughout the year.  Just imagine if the NCAA basketball tournament lasted the entire season.  The first round would be held in November, when teams are just getting started in their schedule.  Then the next round would be in January in the middle of the season, and the rest of the tournament would be during the game's customary March Madness.  It would be really hard to not only follow the event but also remember who was still alive once March came around.  Plus think of how hard it would be to gamble on the event... not that anyone does that on March Madness...

If the ATP wants fans to get behind a great event like the Davis Cup, they need to change the scheduling of the event.  Instead of spacing it out throughout the year, which drains fan interest (especially from the eliminated countries), why not stage it during the down time after the U.S. Open?  The month of September contains zero mandatory Masters Series events, and only two second tier "500 Series" events.  September is a pretty uneventful month in tennis, and most casual fans think that the tennis season ends after the last major of the year when in actuality it continues through the ATP Tour Finals in mid November.  Running the Davis Cup in consecutive weeks builds fan interest and rewards players who are playing their best tennis at the end of the season.  Taking out the two weeks at the beginning of the year that would hold the first two rounds of the Davis Cup gives players some extra time off, which would hopefully keep them fresher at the end of the year.  And most importantly, holding a meaningful event during this down time would give tennis bloggers something to actually write about.  Otherwise I'm just going to have to start making up accusations like Rafael Nadal is on steroids or Maria Sharapova hurt her shoulder beating up an ex-boyfriend.  TMZ here I come!