Tennis: Davis Cup is moving further and further away from its tradition

Completed, in two steps, three movements. Thursday, November 25, a hard-won success from the Czech Republic (2-1). Saturday, November 27, a defeat announced against Great Britain (1-2). And this Sunday 28, a very slim hope of qualifying suspended from the results of other matches, logically contrary to the end: the Blues of tennis have already finished with the Davis Cup 2021, a purge carried out in Austria and behind closed doors, pandemic obliges .

To console ourselves, we can summon the memory of the campaigns of yesteryear, meetings over three days with marathon matches in five rounds with a knife in front of a excited audience. It was the silver bowl of the golden era, before money matters came to the net, and a man named Gerard Piqué took the stake.

→ ANALYSIS. Men’s tennis in the face of losing points of reference

The defender and businessman of Football Club de Barcelona acquired for twenty-five years, with his company Kosmos, the rights to the prestigious competition in 2018, by offering the International Tennis Federation (ITF) a check which, as we say, do not refuse: nearly three billion euros.

“They are killing the competition”

The Davis Cup was certainly not at its best, no longer managing to seduce the big players and the sponsors. The “savior” Pique was able to upset the formula, reduced to a kind of league of 18 teams gathered over a week in Madrid. The first in 2019 turned in part to a fiasco, with an atmosphere at half mast outside the matches of Spain of Rafael Nadal (victorious finally), and a wobbly organization, meetings sometimes ending at the end of the night.

Canceled due to the Covid last year, the event takes place this year for its group stages at three sites, in Innsbruck, Turin and Madrid. Between the closed door imposed in Austria, the very sparse public in Italy and Spain, and the absence of 10 players from the World Top 15 (many injured at the end of the season, and the German Alexander Zverev, world No. 3, refusing to come), the overhaul is struggling to convince at least. But the worst is still elsewhere, with the revelation last week by the English press of a move to come for the next five years to Abu Dhabi.

The ITF has yet to validate this transfer, but the case seems heard. And it is already causing an outcry. “If they are now selling the soul of Davis Cup to the Middle East, I think it’s ridiculous and they’re killing the competition”, annoyed Lleyton Hewitt, the former champion who now coaches the Australian team. The French captain Sébastien Grosjean is also alarmed by such a development: “I think we have to sit around a table with the authorities of the circuit and integrate the players into the discussions regarding the programming, the calendar, to perhaps put this Davis Cup back in a home-away format and find the best formula. “

A pure logic of profits

The time does not seem, however, for the great democratic brainstorming. Kosmos has bet big on the Davis Cup. Because of the pandemic, the premiums paid have already been reduced (from 23 to 19 million euros, to be distributed to players and federations). We must find reliable partners to guarantee the future.

“And in this context, the sports policy of the United Arab Emirates is in perfect harmony with the Kosmos project, analysis Raphaël Le Magoariec, doctoral student specializing in the Middle East at the University of Tours. Abu Dhabi only uses sport in its diplomacy as a tool to develop its economic network. Its Formula 1 Grand Prix, for example, is only for inviting VIPs and doing business. The Davis Cup would be part of this movement, and regardless of the issues of image, profitability, or public interest. “

In fact, tennis fans are unlikely to be able to afford an expensive trip to follow their teams in Abu Dhabi. The popular dimension which had hitherto been all the salt of the ordeal? “Entities like Kosmos are driven by economic profit and have nothing to do with passion for sport. The Gulf monarchies interest them for their enormous financial capacities. And these monarchies laugh at their side of the external feeling. They do not operate on the same sporting imagination as our Western perceptions. For Kosmos as for Abu Dhabi, the Davis Cup is a product that must be sold. The rest is of little importance. “


Gerard Piqué, business version

Kosmos, the small business of the 34-year-old Catalan footballer, is becoming more and more conqueror. In December 2020, it invests in the French start-up Sorare, which is developing a business of digital football playing cards, and a few months later becomes the French technology company with the biggest fundraising (580 million euros). .

In June 2021, Kosmos launched an agency to represent top athletes, with Austrian tennis player Dominic Thiem as its first client. In August, Kosmos offered the rights to the French Ligue 1 in Spain. Very recently, Gerard Piqué also distinguished himself by launching… the World Balloon Championship. Splurge ? Mostly a hit on the Twitch app. Good sense of dribbling and business.



Football: Lionel Messi arrived in Paris

The only footballer to be awarded six times the Golden Ball and the European Golden Shoe, Lionel Messi marked the legend of football, but also that of his club, FC Barcelona, ​​in which he played for almost twenty-one year.

The superstar landed Tuesday, August 10 afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., at Le Bourget airport, where the Argentinian, dressed in a t-shirt “Here is Paris”, greeted the hundreds of supporters who cheered him on.

→ ANALYSIS. Lionel Messi, a star at all costs for Paris

Paris Saint-Germain celebrated his arrival with a 13-second video full of references to the striker’s career, such as his six Ballons d’Or and the Argentinian flag, placed between the shirts of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé.

→ READ. Football: superstar Lionel Messi leaves Barca

In statements to several local media outlets at Barcelona-El Prat Airport, his father and advisor, Jorge Messi, responded with a ” Yes “ laconic to a journalist who asked him if his son was going to engage with PSG.

Highly anticipated

At the Parc des Princes, employees cleaned and set up the red carpet for the stadium’s VIP entrance.

The players in Ligue 1, too, shared their enthusiasm during the weekend as to the probable arrival of the six-fold Golden Ball.

Since the brutal announcement, Thursday, August 5, of the departure of Messi from his club, Barça, PSG appears to be the most likely destination for the Argentine. ” It’s a possibility “, had confirmed Sunday, August 8, the striker, when bidding farewell to the Blaugrana club. “Honestly, I got a lot of calls from a lot of clubs when the release (of his departure) appeared. At this moment, there is nothing done ”, he continued. This Tuesday, football fans now know that the transfer is indeed official.

The French press mentions PSG’s proposal for a contract of at least two years, with a net annual salary of around 40 million euros. Figures that would place Messi at the level of Neymar (36 million euros), the highest paid footballer in France.



Millimeter, chaotic, exotic: my dive into the Tokyo Olympics

But what am I doing, on a Tuesday evening in July 2021, on this old asphalt velodrome plunged into the darkness of Izu, 200 kilometers southwest of Tokyo? On the other side of the world in the midst of a pandemic, while the borders are closed to foreigners. Gesticulating in front of these six masked taxi drivers, not one of whom understands a word of English. None of them are supposed to bring me back to Tokyo.

→ ANALYSIS. Olympic Games: goodbye Tokyo, hello Paris 2024!

Yes, adventures are unforeseen. But this adventure itself was unforeseen. I am 22 years old, I am a journalist at The cross and I was “specially sent”, as the jargon says, to Tokyo to cover the 2020 Olympics. In 2021.

The backpackers of the newspaper kept warning me: “The Olympics are a bubble. And the organizational constraints are enormous. “ But of the Pandemic Games, no one really knew what it would look like.

On arrival, a real factory

The adventure therefore begins in an almost empty plane, like those who reach disaster areas. Nothing to get bored during the 12-hour flight: there is first an online form to fill out, which ignores the right to make mistakes: 500,000 yen fine (4,000 €) and 6 months of prison in case of false declaration. I check the exact spelling of the address of our accommodation several times.

→ SELECTION. The Tokyo Olympics summarized in 13 photos

Then documents with the shovel, where we are asked in particular the question: Are you going to download the geolocation, contact case tracing and video call applications? “ Not really possible to say no. The Japanese government took the risk of maintaining the event despite popular pressure. He does not want to leave anything to chance: journalists, like all participants, will be watched like milk on fire.

The arrival changes. Not because of the dull heat or the jet lag, but because you are immersed in a real factory. A mixture of millimeter organization and absurd shambles. About ten counters, each time with different documents to fill out. The main tool of the health bubble, the tracing application, does not work for most newcomers. Instead, we receive a green paper.

At the exit of the airport, waiting for the coach allows me to meet two Italian journalists from Avvenire, “The Italian Cross” , they smile. More than twenty Olympics between them, but never have they seen such a layer of constraints.

“A marathon, not a sprint”

The planetary event begins the next day. I keep in mind a sentence from my colleagues who stayed in France: “Covering the Games is a marathon, not a sprint”. Faced with the extreme richness of the calendar, we must organize ourselves and not throw all of our forces into the battle from the first days.

Their support has been invaluable. Because in Tokyo, there were obstacles on the course of this marathon. Saliva tests, to be performed very frequently. The fifteen minutes timed by an officer at the hotel to get supplies in a grocery store. Registrations to be made each day before 4 p.m. in order to have a place in the Olympic venues the next day. Tickets to be collected at certain sites to be accepted in the mixed zone, where the athletes parade to answer questions. The whole thing sometimes checked with zeal: six checks in the space of a few tens of minutes in the press gallery of the Yoyogi stadium on Sunday, a record.

→ REPORT. In Tokyo, the Olympic Games on the sly

But the main difficulty lies elsewhere: transport. For fourteen days after our arrival, no right to use the public transport network. Two choices are available to us: shuttles and taxis. With the first, I took 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach my hotel from the Olympic stadium, 6 kilometers away. So I quickly turned to the latter, but the coupons issued by the organizer were not unlimited.

Stadiums that ring hollow

Once all these formalities have been passed, it’s time for sport. Finally. With a strange flavor. Attending these shows behind closed doors is a privilege, especially when you see the queues of Japanese people coming to take their picture in front of the Olympic rings of the stadium, but prevented by gates from going further. Most of the sites are padlocked, guarded by soldiers and police.

It is a feeling of embarrassment too, for these athletes for whom competition sometimes represents the apotheosis of a career. In Japan, with a few exceptions, they are faced with stadiums that ring hollow. These two weeks have sometimes taken on the appearance of a gigantic play, as when the two Swedes who won the discus throw ran into the middle of an empty stadium, flag on their back, to celebrate their performance. Then left a few minutes later, dragging their suitcase. Like actors after their show.

→ EDITORIAL. Tokyo Olympics: an invigorated flame

Despite the mountain of measures, these actors of a play with twists were able to go beyond their limits and offer these moments that are the salt of the Olympics. Very accessible for the most part, although two meters away for questions from journalists. Very talkative even, as if relieved to have finally been able to express years of sacrifice in broad daylight. For the duration of an Olympiad, “Tokyo 2020” was able to overcome the uncertainty of the time.



Tokyo Olympics: American swimmer Simone Manuel’s rediscovered mind

Her name is Simone too. Not Simone Biles, Simone Manuel. For the moment, she does not make the Olympic column like her compatriot gymnast, apparatus superstar who promised a new raid in Tokyo, but suddenly forfeit on the eve of the all-around. Exit Simone Biles, mental at half mast.

→ THE FACTS. Tokyo Olympics: gymnast Simone Biles forfeits all-around competition

Simone Manuel, she is there, to gold her reputation from this Friday July 30 in the 50m freestyle. The torments of her colleague, the swimmer knows. She has just experienced them. During the American qualifiers for the Games, last June.

Overtraining syndrome

Simone Manuel had to confirm once again her status as sprint queen. A formality for the champion revealed in Rio in 2016, imperial in the 100 m freestyle, the first black swimmer to offer herself Olympic gold in individual. At barely 20 years old, the promise of the future. And the future indeed smiles on her, the champion outrageously dominating the 2017 Worlds as well as those of 2019: 13 medals in total, including 9 of the most precious metal.

For Tokyo, everyone necessarily expects it at the highest. Except that his qualification on the 100m turns into a nightmare. She is only 9e. Blast. So she explains herself. “I want to share my story. ” And she tells. An overtraining syndrome, diagnosed three months earlier, and its consequences: anxiety attack, insomnia, depression. She is no longer Simone the Conqueror.

The reductive image of the “black swimmer”

“Adding a fifth year to focus on an Olympic deadline, it’s grueling, she emphasizes. Just like being a black person in the United States. We had a brutal year, which can also be mentally exhausting. “ She has been repeating it for a long time now: she no longer wants to be reduced to this image revealed in 2016: the “black swimmer”, the one that we constantly question on this identity theme. “I am not the voice of black America”, she has to repeat.

→ REPORT. Heat, humidity, storm: at the Tokyo Olympics, athletes face the elements

The load is heavy. It relieves a little of it by missing its qualification. And three days later, she still manages to validate her ticket for the 50m freestyle. In Tokyo, she claims to get better. As proof: integrated at the last moment in the American 4 x 100 m relay, she ensured the bronze to her team. “I just need to have confidence in myself”, she swears. She rises to the surface. Message to the other Simone: it’s possible.