The International Tennis Federation has finally rendered its decision on the hosting of two upcoming Davis Cup ties, both called into question by strife within the two host nations.
In the first case, Israel was to host Argentina in a World Group playoff tie Sept. 12-14. But the ITF has decided Israel's situation is too uncertain in the long term to assure the safety of everyone involved five weeks down the line, and has decreed they choose a neutral venue to host the tie.
In the case of Ukraine, the ITF decided that Kiev would remain as the host city for a World Group playoff tie against Belgium on those same dates.
Here's the statement from the chairman of the Davis Cup committee, which includes American former player Katrina Adams.
"After long deliberation, the Committee was convinced that Kiev would provide a safe environment for the tie with Belgium and agreed for it to go ahead as scheduled. The decision on Israel versus Argentina was more problematic for the Committee because the situation in Israel is very fluid at the moment and yet security in Israel is of an exceptionally high standard. Ultimately the outcome rested on the lack of certainty of the situation at the date of the tie, on the decision of other sports not to compete in Israel at this time and on the ITF’s duty to ensure the safety of players, officials and spectators.”
The decision puts Israel in a fairly significant time crunch, even if it likely anticipated the situation. The country's tennis association has been given five working days to "file a full completed application to the Davis Cup Committee for approval."
The chief sports writer for the Jerusalem Post, Allon Sinai, says that among the options are New York, Delray Beach, Krakow (Poland) and Tallinn (Estonia).
Israel would still be considered the home nation, entitled to choose the ball and surface. If they decide they can't or won't do it, the ITF can make the call: either choose a neutral side or have it played in Argentina.
Here's how that would work. If the ITF choses a neutral venue, both teams would be considered "visiting teams". But for the purposes of home ground, Israel would lose its turn – i.e., if the two nations meet again, Argentina would automatically host it. If they decid it will be played in Argentina, then that country will be on the hook for all the financial arrangements and be considered the home country; Israel would then host the next two meetings between the nations.
These are rare circumstances, but hardly unprecedented. However, it makes everyone involved have to scramble because these events don't just come together in a week or two.
Sometimes the ITF doesn't rule this way, and that has an effect on the outcome as well. In 2009, Australia refused to send a team to India for a tie between the two nations, and pleas to relocate it fell on deaf ears. Not only did India win by forfeit, Australia was subject to potential ITF sanctions.
In 2010, a tie that was to be held in Pakistan was relocated to a neutral venue because of security concerns. Pakistan chose Myanmar; the court then was judged unplayable and the ITF decided to move the whole thing to the Pakistanis' opponents, New Zealand.
It's not the first tennis-related casualty of the conflict in Israel. The ATP Tour was scheduled to return in September for the first time since 1996 for an event to be held Sept. 15-21, right after the Davis Cup tie. But it has been cancelled.