By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Davis Cup has not been carrying its weight for the time it occupies in the tennis calendar and there are no easy solutions to rejuvenating the team tournament, according to United States captain Jim Courier.
The U.S. play Australia in a World Group opener in Melbourne this week and although big crowds are expected at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, Courier said the 116-year competition was struggling to resonate to a global audience.
"I would say if the Davis Cup was a publicly traded company and the grand slams were publicly traded companies, the Davis Cup would have been gobbled up by somebody already," four-times grand slam champion Courier told reporters at Kooyong on Monday.
"It hasn't carried its weight for the amount of weeks that it has in the season. And that hurts me because I'm passionate about it. I wouldn't be here if I didn’t care about it."
"I think there's obviously passion here for the Davis Cup in this country and it's not an easy discussion as to how to fix it.
"But I just hate to see it lose ground, to see players -- they're not abandoning it but they're certainly plenty of players who choose not to play and you’d love to see them all put their hands up when it’s time."
The International Tennis Federation, which runs the Davis Cup, has flagged changes to the tournament which leading players have long criticized for its rigid format and scheduling in the crowded tennis calendar.
New ITF president David Haggerty hopes to push a 'final four' format which would see the semi-finals and final grouped together in a one-week event played at a neutral venue.
Courier, who won the Davis Cup as a player in 1992 and 1995, said he was "bullish" about the tournament's future under the ITF's new management.
"I think we were certainly stagnant for a while under the previous leadership," he said.
"I think there’s a look forward to a modernized Davis Cup to make it sing in the way that the Australian Open and the majors are singing globally these days. The Davis Cup just doesn’t resonate unfortunately that way.
"I just wish more people shared their enthusiasm on it."
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)