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Monday, February 12, 2007
Updated: February 15, 5:01 PM ET
How to make Davis Cup even better

Well, Davis Cup week turned out to be all that we could have asked -- and more. The handwriting was writ large on the wall when obscure journeyman Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland fired the first, typically seismic shot in this always unpredictable competition: He beat Fernando Verdasco (ranked No. 33 in singles) of Spain to send fits of panic through the Spanish squad.

Spain ultimately averted the huge upset at the hands of a team lacking its biggest gun, Roger Federer. But Lleyton Hewitt and Australia, and Ivan Ljubicic and Croatia were not so lucky; the Aussies lost to tiny Belgium and the strong Croatian squad was upset by Germany. The great news for the U.S. was that Andy Roddick and Mike and Bob Bryan once again stepped up: the Bryans won the doubles against the Czech Republic with the tie at 1-1, leaving Roddick in a position to clinch the round for the eighth time in his career. He did it in four tight sets, against Tomas Berdych, a top-10 player who was defending on his home turf, on the red clay that's been Kryptonite for American players. Roddick's win put him at 8-0 when he's in a position to clinch (more about him in my post on Thursday).

For now, though, I think there are three things the ITF must do to make Davis Cup a better event, even though convincing American sports editors of the glory of this event may forever be a bridge too far (if you have any ideas why this is so, please write!):

1. Hold the World Group competition the week after Grand Slams (Roland Garros excepted). My sources tell me that 19 of the Top 20 players requested that the ITF eliminate the "off" week between the ties that follow the Australian and U.S. Opens. This may seem counter-intuitive, but no more than two players (the finalists in the relevant majors) would have to fret about lack of preparation going into a DC tie the weekend after a Grand Slam final. The consensus is that the players would rather get Davis Cup over with while their competitive juices are still flowing. The downside for the ITF: most people, including television execs, are OD'ing on tennis by the end of a major.

2. Mandate the use of Hawk-Eye. Davis Cup consists of just five matches, played on the same court. There's no excuse not to have Hawk-Eye electronic line calling for all but clay-court ties (where officials can check the mark of a ball, a la Roland Garros), given how often we've had officiating controversies attributed to nationalistic ardor on the part of officials.

3. Create a Davis Cup uniform. National teams have uniforms, period. Yet there was Roddick in black-and-white, and Berdych in red-and-blue yesterday in Ostrava. The official uniform should be predominantly white, with the relevant flag of each country tastefully incorporated into the design (in the back, below the collar?). Davis Cup is about tradition, pageantry and playing for your country. Why have the guys dressed like two hackers at the local park? Perhaps it would be the magic bullet in the battle to win over all those editors who remain tone-deaf to the beautiful music of Davis Cup.