Footballer turned investor Gerard Pique has hit back at criticism of his role in the decline of the Davis Cup from Stan Wawrinka and former tennis player Julien Benneteau.
The competition faces an uncertain future following the collapse of a 25-year, $3bn (£2.4bn) deal between the International Tennis Federation and Pique’s vehicle Kosmos this year.
Wawrinka tagged Pique and the ITF in a social media post blaming them for a paltry attendance for a match between his Switzerland team and France in Manchester on Tuesday.
The former Barcelona and Spain star responded by citing total attendance for last year’s group stage of more than 113,000, adding: “We don’t organise it anymore. Ask the ITF…”
Ill feeling runs deep in tennis circles over the Kosmos-Davis Cup deal, and while much of it is towards the current ITF leadership some also hold Pique responsible for the mess.
Replying to Pique, former world No25 Benneteau wrote: “How do you dare to talk??? You have literally killed one of the pillars of tennis with the ITF. So please shut the f… up.”
The ITF pulled the plug on the Kosmos deal in January, just four years into the contract, after Pique’s investment group asked to renegotiate the terms.
Pique said in June that he was suing the ITF for $50m for the “unjustified termination” of the contract, arguing that the pandemic had changed the landscape.
“Covid was impossible to predict,” he told Spanish media. “Many leagues and federations adapted and the ITF decided that they did not want to renegotiate their conditions.”
While Switzerland’s defeat to France attracted only a handful of fans, Great Britain’s match against Australia on Wednesdfay at the same venue sold 8,000 tickets.
Continuing their exchange, Wawrinka took Pique to task by asking “if it was such a success last year, why the 25 years deal stopped after 5 years [sic]?”.
Pique, who started his professional career at Manchester United and retired last year, replied: “We still don’t know… Let’s see what the judge says.”