Haggerty's $3bn victory to scrap Davis Cup for week-long final
By Jonathan Rest
David Haggerty's three-year battle to overhaul the Davis Cup, men's tennis national teams competition, has finally been successful, following a vote of the International Tennis Federation membership in Orlando, Florida today.
The ITF president (pictured front left) and his board of directors required a two-thirds majority to introduce the World Cup of Tennis Finals, a $3-billion, 25-year project, and were duly successful, getting 71 per cent of the vote at the annual general meeting.
The Davis Cup will now be scrapped in favour of an annual season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals, beginning in November 2019, which will feature 18 nations and be played over one week in one city.
Twenty-four teams will compete in home and away ties in February, with 12 winning teams advancing to the finals. The four semi-finalists from the previous year's tournament, plus two wildcards, would complete the 18 teams.
Lille, France or Madrid, Spain are being considered for 2019.
The finals are backed to the tune of $3 billion from investment group Kosmos, founded by Spanish soccer star Gerard Pique, and with significant financial backing from Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce company.
Last week Larry Ellison, the US billionaire software tycoon, announced plans to invest with Kosmos in the World Cup of Tennis Finals, and said he hopes the 2021 edition will be staged at his Indian Wells Tennis Garden facility in California, site of the Indian Wells Masters 1000 tournament that he owns.
The controversial revamp of the 118-year-old Davis Cup was by no means a given, having been opposed by high-profile dissenters, including Tennis Europe, the UK's Lawn Tennis Association and Tennis Australia, all of which claimed the ITF had displayed a lack of transparency throughout the process. They also questioned the financing of the new tournament.
The ITF was known to have the backing of three of the four grand slams - Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open - and the Confederation of South American Tennis.
Tennis Australia's opposition to Davis Cup reform was perhaps inevitable, given that it has teamed up with the ATP, the men's tour, on a rival 24-team World Team Cup, offering $15 million in prize money plus ranking points, which is planned to be played across Australia in January 2020.
That would come just two months after the ITF's planned inaugural World Cup of Tennis Finals, and both the ATP and ITF have conceded that there is not enough room in the tennis calendar for both competitions.
Speaking after today's vote, Haggerty told media: "Now the hard work begins."
Reform of the Davis Cup, and the women's Fed Cup, has been at the top of Haggerty's agenda since he was elected ITF president in September 2015. Indeed, in his election manifesto, 'Leadership. Vision and Promise', Haggerty pledged to strengthen the ITF's financial position, “through a review of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup. This will include possible new formats and new events that will increase Davis Cup and Fed Cup sponsorship revenue by $20 million by 2020.”
At last August's AGM, a far less radical proposal to alter Davis Cup matches to the best of three tie-break sets attracted just under 64-per-cent support from member nations.
The ITF had earlier shelved plans to vote on the introduction of a neutral venue for the Davis Cup and Fed Cup finals following stiff opposition. The ITF board had even selected Geneva, Switzerland to host the combined finals between 2018 and 2020, having seen off competition from Copenhagen, Miami, Istanbul, Turin and Wuhan following a competitive bid process run by CSM Sport & Entertainment, the UK-based sports marketing agency.