In Brief

Davis Cup set for £2bn World Cup of Tennis revamp

In Depth: ITF and Gerard Pique’s Kosmos group plan to transform the team event

A consortium led by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique will invest £2.15bn to remodel the Davis Cup tennis tournament.

The 118-year-old men’s tennis team event, which has been traditionally played over various surfaces with three-day home-and-away ties throughout the season, will be transformed into an 18-nation World Cup of Tennis Finals starting next year, the BBC reports. 

Pique’s Kosmos group will partner with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to commit $3bn (£2.15bn) over a 25-year period. The Daily Mail says that “tennis fanatic” Pique presented his proposals to the ITF Board last weekend.

The Barcelona and Spain star said: “Together we can elevate the Davis Cup to new heights by putting on a must-see World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring the top nations and top players.”

News.com.au says that top male players such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have “reacted positively” to the plans. ITF president David Haggerty also says the changes will make it “so much more appealing and tangible to the top players”. 

The ITF board has “unanimously endorsed the proposal” says News.com.au and the federation will submit the plans at its AGM in August. According to the BBC, two-thirds of its members will be required “for final approval of the proposals”.

We take a look at what it means for men’s tennis, how the new competition will look and what the critics say to the big plans.

What is the new competition?

According to the Davis Cup website, the new plans will see the World Cup of Tennis Finals played over seven days every November in the traditional week of the Davis Cup Final. The winners will take home the trophy, which will still be called the Davis Cup.

The statement adds: “The finals will feature a round-robin format followed by a quarter-final knockout stage. Each tie will consist of two singles and one doubles rubber over best-of-three sets. The 16 World Group nations will automatically qualify for the finals, and a further two nations will be selected.”

Haggerty said: “Our vision is to create a major season-ending finale that will be a festival of tennis and entertainment, featuring the world’s greatest players representing their nations to decide the Davis Cup champions. This new partnership will not only create a true World Cup of Tennis, but will also unlock record levels of new investment for future generations of tennis players and fans around the world.”

How much prize money is on offer?

The world’s best male tennis players will compete for prize money worth £14.3m, the Daily Mail says.

What about the Fed Cup?

Women’s main team competition could also change in the future, says ITF president Haggerty. It’s the ITF’s “long-term goal” to turn the Fed Cup into a similar one-week event, News.com.au reports. Haggerty said: “This is a complete game-changer for the ITF and for tennis.”

What does the tennis world think of the proposals?

British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith told the Daily Telegraph he had an “open mind” about the changes. He said: “There’s still a long way to go as it requires a two-thirds majority approval. For now, we’ll just have to keep an open mind, but we’re still passionate about Davis Cup and I – like everyone else – realise that changes need to be made to ensure its longevity and status.

“One of the first things that came to mind is the loss of the home-and away-tie. It [a team competition in a single city or country] works in other sports but it remains to be seen if it could work in Davis Cup. However, I do think it’s really positive that the ITF are looking at significant investment from other sources to secure the future of the competition.”

At the Madrid Masters last May, 16-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal said: “Pique is part of a group that wants to create a World Cup that would be a great and very interesting tournament to compete in.”

American Davis Cup captain Jim Courier supports the plans but said “it’s politically tricky and no sure thing that this gets rubber-stamped”.

Others are highly critical. Russia’s former Davis Cup champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov told Australian newspaper The Age that the Davis Cup changes were “terrible”. He said. “The value and spirit of the whole team competition is gone.” 

Former Australia Davis Cup captain Neale Fraser said the new event would be “disastrous”. Speaking to The Australian newspaper, he added: “The Davis Cup is one of the greatest competitions in the world in any sport and they are trying to crucify it by having it over one week. They may as well throw the ball up in the air and see where it lands to decide a winner.”

Australia’s Davis Cup legend Pat Cash was also not too complimentary about the World Cup of Tennis Finals. He said: “It is un-f..king-believable. It is a disaster for tennis worldwide. This is going to ruin tennis. It is almost laughable at how destructive this will be for tennis, for juniors.”

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