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Noah hits out at lies over Davis Cup revamp

media Yannick Noah's France side lost to Croatia in the last final under the old format of the Davis Cup. Reuters/Christian Hartmann

France captain Yannick Noah on Sunday launched a blistering attack on tennis executives who have ordered an overhaul of the 118-year-old Davis Cup.

The 58-year-old former world number three hit out branded the revamp a lie after Croatia’s leading singles player Marin Cilic had beaten Lucas Pouille 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win the decisive third point in the best of five series.

The vast majority of the 24,000 fans at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq in northern France were screaming for the world number 32 Pouille to make a mockery of the ATP rankings and beat a player 25 places above him.

For the first hour he gave them hope but could not fashion any break points off Cilic's serve. The 24-year-old yielded in the tiebreak seven points to three.

Cilic's superior firepower and status ultimately took their toll against a player who last year won the third point in the Davis Cup final for his country.

Despite the increasing prospect of doom, the fans cheered Pouille to the last.

“We know it’s not going to be the same,” said Noah. “Everybody knows. So why don’t people tell the truth? We will never have that kind of atmosphere in wherever they play it next. It will be something else. I really hope they don’t call the competition the Davis Cup because it will not be the Davis Cup.”

From 2019 the competition will be renamed the Davis Cup Finals and be played in a neutral venue over one week to determine the champions.

Eighteen teams will be divided into six pools of three. They will each play twice and those ties will comprise three matches. The length will be reduced from best of five sets to the best of three.

The group winners and the two best second-placed sides will advance to the quarter-finals. From then it will be a knockout competition.

Noah, who will step down after leading France for three years, added: “Playing the best of three sets is not the Davis Cup. Playing on a neutral venue is not Davis Cup. So when people tell us this is the Davis Cup, they are lying. So if I have a voice I am going to tell them you are liars.”

He said he had expressed his views to David Haggerty, the top man at the competition’s organising body, the International Tennis Federation .

“I told him I was disgusted and upset,” said Noah. “Of course, I’m not saying that everybody has to feel the same way but this is the way I feel.

History man

“I owe the Davis Cup because the Davis Cup has been so much for me. I have so many stories from it as a player and as a fan.”

Noah first captained France to Davis Cup victory in 1991. His underdog team of Guy Forget and Henri Leconte managed to upstage a United States outfit comprising Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

It was France’s first victory in the competition since 1932. France won it again under Noah’s aegis in 1996. Their triumph in 2017 over Belgium was their first success since 1996.

“So now you have these people who have decided: ‘No, it doesn’t matter,” said Noah. “I don’t know if they don’t know or if they don’t care. I told Mr Haggerty that I am not from his world.”

Several players have voiced their scepticism about the new format. But critics of the current configuration say too many of the big stars skip the tournament.

“This new event will create a true festival of tennis and entertainment which will be more attractive to players, to fans, to sponsors and to broadcasters,” said Haggerty after national tennis associations voted for a change in August.

“The new revenues for nations that the event will generate will have a transformative effect on the development of tennis in all nations.

“Our mission is to ensure that this historic decision will benefit the next generation of players for decades to come.”

Noah added: “The debate is closed. That’s the way it is. I just hope that this money goes to the small nations who have been promised it so tennis can be developed in their countries. We’ll have to watch how it goes.”

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