MADRID — Nerves have been part of Davis Cup since tennis’s oldest team competition began 119 years ago.
But the edginess has a different source than usual this week in Madrid, where Davis Cup’s final rounds have been radically transformed by an unlikely partnership between the International Tennis Federation and the Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué.
The suspense, for a change, seems less about who will win the big, gleaming trophy and more about how much anyone will care who wins the big, gleaming trophy.
It makes for an odd vibe, and opening day on Monday was, first and foremost, about evaluating the size and passion of the crowds, not about scrutinizing the forehands and backhands.
The first impression was clear: Attendance was underwhelming at the Caja Mágica tennis complex, with all three of its covered stadiums far from full for the day’s three head-to-head team matches.
The long-term view certainly seemed the more pleasant view when the opening ceremony took place on Monday afternoon in a main stadium that was less than half full.
But by the time evening arrived, there was the 20-year-old Shapovalov holding off the 23-year-old Berrettini and howling with unfeigned delight before celebrating with his teammates and a small but rowdy group of red-clad Canadian fans.
Mixed signals? Get used to them.