Details for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Groups III and IV events have been announced, with the Africa Group III event taking place at the Nairobi Club in Kenya.
The Davis Cup is the premier international team event for men’s tennis, and is run by the International Tennis Federation. The event is contested annually between teams from competing countries in a knockout format. In this event, the 16 best national teams are assigned to the World Group, where they compete for the Davis Cup trophy every year. However, nations which aren’t part of the World Group compete in one of three regional zones—Americas, Asia/Oceania, and Europe/Africa.
Each of the three regional zones is divided into four groups. Groups I and II play elimination rounds, with the losing teams facing relegation to the next-lower group in their respective regional zone. The teams in Groups III and IV play a round-robin tournament, with promotion and relegation on the cards.
Now, following the announcement by the Davis Cup, the Africa Group III event will take place from September 11-14, and will see Nigeria face host nation, Kenya, Tunisia, Benin, Namibia, Algeria, Mozambique and Madagascar in the competition, which will be played on clay.
Last year, the Nigerian team, led by Joseph Imeh, Sylvester Emmanuel, Christian Paul and captained by Abdulmumin Babalola, missed out on promotion to the Africa Zone Group II after they came up short in the promotional playoff to Namibia. Victory for Namibia saw the Southern African nation join Kenya as the only two teams from Group III to seal promotion to Africa Zone Group II. However, as a result of sweeping changes made to the tournament, both nations will no longer compete in the Africa Group II event, but will instead remain in Group III and fight for promotion again.
In August last year, the International Tennis Federation Annual General Meeting in Orlando, USA adopted sweeping changes to the Davis Cup that took effect this year. A new ranking system came into effect after a new sponsor, Kosmo, an investment firm owned by FC Barcelona and Spain defender Gerard Pique, signed a deal worth $30 billion, covering 25 years.
The new rules saw a ranking system backdated to four years being used and as a result Kenya dropped to 13th position in Euro/Africa Group II where 12 countries were picked. It also affected Namibia. In the Americas, it affected Honduras, and in Europe, Poland was hit. The Poles had won Euro/Africa Group II beating Romania to qualify to Group I.
Having come agonizingly close to sealing promotion to Africa Group II in June last year, Nigeria will now seek to go a step better this time.
Nigeria’s best Davis Cup performances were semifinal finishes in Europe/Africa Zone Group I, in 1988 and 1989.