Much debate in the haps regarding the US Davis Cup team's choice of "Indoor Hard Premier" for the upcoming tie against Spain. Spain has objected and brought the matter to the ITF's attention. Apparently the surface isn't on the ITF's approved list but, according to a source who spoke to Joe Fleming at USA Today, the US isn't too worried about getting the ITF's sign-off.
Here's what the Davis Cup rules say about approved court surfaces:
The key provision is this:
"For all Ties in the World Group...the court surface must be of a type used a in Grand Slam Tournament or in a minimum of three Tournaments in the Men's Professional Tour held in the year previous to the Tie."
This "Indoor Hard Premier" definitely isn't used at the US Open or Australian Open, so the issue is whether it has been used in at least three ATP tournaments in the last year. From what I can tell, it hasn't.
There's more information in this Ticker post, which pretty much lays out the USTA's stance on the issue. Curiously, they seem to put a lot of weight in the fact that the surfaces has been used in the past. But again, rules are rules, and I haven't seen anything that indicates that it's been used sufficiently in the past year so as to satisfy the ITF's rule. It seems to me the USTA is going to have to show that it's just a semantics issue, and that the surface has been used in the last year, just under a different name.
I can't help but imagine this argument if it were held in court before a judge:
Espana Esquire: Your honor, the rule clearly states that the surface has to be used at least three times in the past year. Defendants have produced no evidence to show that the use of this surface satisfies that rule.
American Attorney: Your honor, there is no problem with the surface. It has been used in major competition in the past, most notably in the 2007 Davis Cup final. The ITF has approved the surface before, it should have no problem with it now.
Judge Judy: Counselor, has the surface been used in any ATP tournaments in the past year?
American Attorney: Well, Judge, it has been used in the Davis Cup final and there are similar acrylic courts listed on the ITF approved list.
Judge Judy: So it hasn't been used in the last year?
American Attorney: Similar courts have been used extensiv--
Judge Judy: Has it been used in the last year?
American Attorney: Um...[shuffles papers]...your honor, similar acrylic courts have been used and this is really just an issue of semantics.
Judge Judy: Counselor, where did you go to law school?
American Attorney: Uh...your honor?
Judge Judy: Sir, I asked you where to go to law school. I ask because I need to contact your alma mater to ask them why they're not teaching their students that when a judge asks them a direct question, their responsibility is to answer the question placed before them.
American Attorney: [Shitting. The. Pants.]
Don't laugh. I saw this happen. But...like...not about tennis.
I would be inclined to think the USTA stepped in something here, but I could be wrong. They don't seem all that worried about it. Maybe this is just gamesmanship from Costa? Always possible.
The ITF said it would make a decision on the suraface on Thursday. I'm sure everyone is waiting with baited breath.
The more interesting thing I learned while trying to figure out this story is that during the USTA presale of Davis Cup tickets, which was presumably supposed to be an offer for USTA members only, people who bought tickets didn't even have to enter their USTA membership number. They just had to have the code. Well given the way the whole ticketing process went down (read: disaster), it appears that scalpers got their hands on that code and bought up a crapload of tickets, leaving paying USTA members either SOL or stuck up high in the rafters.
Way to show paying USTA members that you value them and their membership fees, guys.