If you are involved in the tennis industry and were to brainstorm ways of creating interest in the sport in Britain outside of the newly extended grasscourt season, then staging a Davis Cup semi-final tie against Australia would surely rank high on the wish list.
This weekend, for the first time since 1981, Great Britain is playing in a semi-final of this prestigious team competition. With Andy Murray, the world No.3, in a home team which also includes Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot, who both reached the latter stages of the US Open last week, Britain appear to be the stronger team on paper.
The doubles can often be decisive in the Davis Cup and this is an area where Britain appear to have the edge. Jamie Murray, who reached the final of the men’s doubles at both Wimbledon and the US Open with his Australian partner John Peers, joined forces with his brother in the quarter-final victory over France at The Queen’s Club.
If playing three matches in three days looks like being too much to ask of Andy, his brother will partner Inglot, who reached the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows with Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt. Jamie Murray and Inglot played together in Britain’s first-round victory over the United States in March, when they took the Bryan brothers to five sets.
Australia have not included Peers in their line-up despite the fact that he is their highest-ranked doubles player by some margin. Nick Kyrgios has also been omitted from the team, which comprises Bernard Tomic, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt. Tomic and Kokkinakis have been named for Friday's singles, while Groth and Hewitt are expected to play doubles on Saturday.
The semi-final team of Andy Murray, Dan Evans, Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot was announced on Thursday lunchtime. Evans was named as the No.2 British singles player.
With Andy Murray exiting the US Open earlier than he has any Grand Slam in the last five years and having had more time to recover from his busy summer schedule, Leon Smith, Britain’s captain, will be hoping that his top man will make himself available for doubles action.
Hewitt is playing in what could be his last Davis Cup tie before he retires after the 2016 Australian Open, and there is the possibility that the 34-year-old will step on to the court in the Emirates Arena to play singles as well as doubles. The former world No.1 clinched victory from the jaws of defeat in Australia’s quarter-final tie against Kazakhstan. Trailing 2-0 after the singles rubbers, Hewitt and Groth won the doubles and then replaced Kokkinakis and Kyrgios, who had both lost their opening singles rubbers, to win the tie. Hewitt won the final rubber 7-6(2) 6-2 6-3.
The 8200 strong crowd at the Emirates Arena is likely to blow the roof off with their support this weekend. Should the tie be decided by a fifth rubber then any ear-plug manufacturer would be wise to set up a stall in London Road, Glasgow. It has been a long time since there was so much interest in Davis Cup in Britain.
Recent victories by Croatia (2005), Serbia (2010) and Switzerland (2014) have shown that nations with one or two exceptional players have the ability to take the honours in the competition, although countries with a greater depth of players such as Spain (champions in 2008, 2009 and 2011) have also been victorious.
Is 2015 the year for Britain? The British may be tied with France in the champions list with nine Davis Cup wins, but for the industry, history has little real effect on its health. The statistics will no doubt be quoted many times this weekend; Britain’s last semi-final was in 1981, a mere 34 years ago, while it is 79 years since Great Britain won the team competition.
With live TV viewing on BBC and Eurosport over the weekend, not to mention the noise that can be made with social media, there is a real opportunity for the industry to benefit from the tie. Tennishead publisher Bridget Marrison will be publishing daily newsletters around the tie.
“Although our print magazine will review the result and hopefully celebrate a British victory, we think our readers will be very interested in a daily digital newsletter. We offered British businesses the opportunity to get involved and had a good response from some key brands. We have produced engaging content for each of the manufacturers as well as offering them traditional ads.”
The BBC has a joint three year deal with Eurosport to broadcast the Davis Cup until 2017 and although TV viewing is unlikely to reach the 9.2 million who tuned in for the 2015 men’s Wimbledon final, the tie is likely to attract lots of eyeballs, through broadcast channels, live blogs and twitter. The ITF’s website DavisCup.com and Copadaviscup.com (their Spanish language site) attracted a record 7.2 million visits during the 33 World Group and Zone group ties staged in March of this year. The Davis Cup Facebook page recorded 21 million page impressions.
So for global tennis businesses this unique team event is an incredible marketing opportunity and with the Ashes already firmly in British hands the sporting rivalry with Australia is set to be revived. If Britain were to win and Argentina were to defeat Belgium in the other semi final then the Davis Cup Final would be staged in Britain on 27 – 29 November. If Britain win and Belgium were their final opponents the tie would be played in Belgium.
But whatever happens in November, what will your business be doing this weekend to seize the moment?