World Cup of Tennis: Davis Cup set for major face-lift
The Davis Cup, the men’s national teams tennis competition, is to undergo a major overhaul, with the help of Spanish soccer star Gerard Pique.
The International Tennis Federation, which organises the Davis Cup, today announced plans for a 25-year, $3-billion partnership with investment group Kosmos, founded by Pique (pictured), and with significant financial backing from Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce company.
The ITF board of directors has unanimously endorsed a proposal to create a new annual season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals from 2019. It will feature 18 nations and be played over one week in one city in November.
The ITF said "several world-class cities have already expressed interest in hosting the new event."
The investment from Kosmos will include significant increases in prize money for players and ITF member nations, and the funding of grass roots projects and other tennis development programmes.
David Haggerty, who has fought to revamp the Davis Cup since assuming the ITF presidency in September 2015, said: “This is a complete game-changer for the ITF and for tennis. Our board has supported a bold and ambitious plan for the future of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas... 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.”
Barcelona's Pique, a regular spectator at major tennis tournaments, said: “Together we [Kosmos] can elevate Davis Cup by BNP Paribas to new heights by putting on a must-see World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring the top nations and top players. Kosmos will also invest $3 billion over 25 years into tennis that will help develop the game worldwide.”
Under the plans, the World Cup of Tennis Finals will be played over seven days in November in the traditional week of the Davis Cup Final. 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 over best-of-three sets. The 16 World Group nations will automatically qualify for the Finals, and a further two nations will be selected.
There will also be a play-off round held during the Finals which will include the eight nations that qualify from the Zone Group I events. The eight play-off winners will earn a place in the following year’s Finals.
There will be no change to the format of zone group competition. In Zone Groups I and II, home-and-away ties will continue to be played during the traditional three weeks in the calendar. Zone Groups III and IV will continue to consist of week-long round-robin events.
The plans will be submitted to the ITF annual general meeting, to be held in August in Orlando, Florida, with a two-thirds majority required for final approval.
Haggerty and the ITF board's previous attempts to reform the Davis Cup, and the women's Fed Cup, were thwarted last year.
The board had worked on a proposal to introduce a neutral venue for the Davis and Fed Cup finals, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 2018 to 2020, but it deferred a vote on the concept at last August's AGM, claiming it needed to continue talks with all stakeholders.
At that AGM, delegates voted in favour of giving the ITF board the authority to make changes to the two competitions on a trial basis in future without needing to seek approval from the general membership.
Reforms approved by the AGM included trialling best-of-three set matches in place of the present best-of-five-set matches in the Davis Cup and guaranteeing the finalists in both Davis Cup and Fed Cup the choice of hosting their first-round tie in the following year.