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Davis Cup Tennis From Madrid Is Sadly Very Poorly Organized • Its A Real Headache To Try To Report

By Alix Ramsay

It has to be said that we in the press corps, for the most part, are simple souls. It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Feed us, give us somewhere warm and dry to work and give us some method of transmitting stories and we will settle down quietly. Provided we can get to work and get home from work, the week will pass without incident.

And then there is the Davis Cup, the all-new, all-singing-and-dancing, re-vamped, re-branded Davis Cup Finals by Rakuten (why should the sponsors escape the blame? Remember the name: Rakuten. Shout it loud and shout it proud: Rakuten, the people who couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery so decided to run the Davis Cup finals instead).

It is day two of the tournament and already the complaints are coming in thick and fast. The trouble is, there is no press officer to complain to. There are heaps of terribly friendly and terribly polite people in the press room but they have, it seems, been provided with little or no information and little of no access to anything of any use.

As the week goes on, they will be shouted at by frustrated journos, but these friendly souls are not to blame. The big wigs, those suited and booted types who lurk in hidden offices and only appear in public when there is a famous player to stand next to – they are the root cause of the mayhem.

Let us begin with the business of getting here.

Imagine that Madrid is an apple. Up by the stalk is the media hotel, a perfectly serviceable accommodation (if double its usual price for the duration of the D-Cup). Down by the scuzzy bit at the bottom (what is that that bit of an apple called?), is the Caja Magica. If there is transport laid on, it makes sense to stay in or around the media hotel. If there is no transport, you would have to be out of your mind to stay so far away from your place of work and so far away from the nice bit of the apple – the city centre.

People booked into the media hotel and its surrounds because the tournament said there would be shuttle buses running between the site and the hotel. What they omitted to mention was that the last bus to the site left at 11am and the first bus back would not leave until the end of the last match of the very last tie every night – potentially 2am or later.

Of course, there is the metro – very efficient and very reasonably priced – but it is a good 45 minutes by metro from the Caja Magica to Cuatro Caminos and the hotel. And everyone wants a 90-minute round trip commute to add on to their day. Had we all be warned about the dearth of buses, we would all have stayed in the centre of town to cut our travelling time by more than half and we would have had something to do when we got back to our digs (Madrid is a fun city if you are staying in the centre).

But it gets better. One photographer, a gentleman who has covered many a D-Cup final, did try to take one of the night buses back to the media hotel on Monday. He arrived at the bus stop on time only to be told – at dead of night – that he was the only passenger. And there was no way that the big bus was going all the way to Cuatro Caminos with just him on board. He could find his own way home.

Still, there are things to do while you are at the Caja Magica. For example, you can try and work out how the D-Cup finals app works. And once you have it up and running, you can try and work out what is happening in the competition. Good luck with that.

As Kazakhstan were beating the Netherlands on Tuesday, it was hard to fathom how because according to the app, Alexander Bublik had lost to…oh, Alexander Bublik while Mikhail Kukushkin had just beaten his Dutch doppelganger Mikhail Kukushkin. Either the Kazakhs had dual nationality (insert own joke here) or they were working a double shift. Or maybe, just maybe, the app was utterly useless.

Then again, on Monday Vasek Pospisil and Fabio Fognini were locked at 5-5 in the first set when, all of a sudden, they went straight to a tiebreak. Was this another Kosmos innovation? No, it was another Kosmos technical cock-up.

At least the app has names on it, though. As the ties began on the first morning, no one from the organising office had thought to send the team sheets to the TV rights holders. Why would this matter? Because the telly people have to set up their graphics and captions. With the teams only announcing their line-ups one hour before each tie begins, time is tight when all is running smoothly. When no one sends the team lists until five minutes before first ball, the telly people get awfully upset. Some become almost suicidal. It really wasn’t pretty.

But there are a few lighter moments amid the chaos. There is a cameraman – an extremely good camera man, too – who travels the circuit taking magnificent footage of the world’s best. Our friend is an artist and his is often seen in and around the court working his magic with a lens.

Alas, he is follically challenged and his pate shines like a beacon under the TV lights. It shines a little too brightly for the people of the Caja Magica and he has been told that, from now on, he must wear a black beanie to reduce the glare. And who said that covering international tennis isn’t all glamour….?

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