International Tennis Federation pass controversial revamp of the Davis Cup format


The makeover to one of sport's most famous and oldest worldwide team tournaments has been a contentious issue within tennis but the ITF's plans received the necessary two-thirds majority from its 210 member nations.

Instead of a usual World Group with 16 teams and four round of home and away ties, the new system includes 18 teams that will fight for the crown in a single week event between November 18-24 in Madrid or Lille (both Spain and France voted for the changes).

It will begin with a week-long qualifying round in February with 24 countries competing in traditional home and away matches.

The Kosmos investment group are using Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique as their front man, and there were dozens of photographs circulating yesterday of Pique celebrating with various American tennis administrators. Players are exhausted and then you are going to put the Davis Cup at the end of that. "This result is a very bitter pill to swallow", said Ulrich Klaus, the president of the German Tennis Federation. I would like to thank ITF President David Haggerty, the ITF Board of Directors and the entire team of ITF professionals for their work with Kosmos over the past few months and welcome a new stage in which we will continue to evolve together.

Round-robin groups of three would send six group winners and two runners-up into knockout round playoffs.

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The top guys are looking at it and saying "it is only one week, I can still play what was the Davis Cup but it isn't really the Davis Cup".

"Everyone agrees that change has to be done, but there are some people who think it needs other changes and that is something I can understand".

The new event will see matches played over the best-of-three sets, culminating in a week-long tournament to determine the world champions.

Lleyton Hewitt is among the critics of the changes to the Davis Cup format.

An LTA statement cited concern over scheduling the event in November, stretching the schedule after the ATP season-finale into an already-thin off-season, risking top player attendance and fan support.

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However, an increasing number of top players have skipped matches in recent years to ease their schedule. Top-ranked Rafael Nadal is expected to play for Spain, but Roger Federer has frequently passed on playing for Switzerland.

He doesn't want a format change that might deny him such a thrill.

And players will be competing for what the ITF says rivals grand slam prize money after a US$3 billion (NZ$4.55b), 25-year agreement that was approved Thursday (Friday) at the organisation's conference in Orlando, Florida.

"This proposal takes away too much of what makes the Davis Cup special and unique", read a Tennis Australia statement.

There, they will join the four semi-finalists of the previous year, who will not have to play in February, and two wildcards that will be announced before the draw for the qualifying round.

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In the new format, teams will play one week in February to advance to the championship in November, replacing the current Davis Cup format that is played over four weekends throughout the year, meaning the amount of time allocated to the competition is cut by half.