London: The big bosses of tennis have moved in swiftly to allay fears of a possible split in the sport following the announcement of a brand-new World Cup for teams starting in January 2020.
Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, was joined by Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley at the announcement of the details for the launch of the ATP Cup — a revamped 24-team World Team Cup over 10 days in three Australian cities playing for a prize fund of $15 million (Dh55 million) in the first week of January 2020.
The ATP and the sport’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), have been at loggerheads over the new team competition during the recent past as it clashes with the ITF’s now re-branded, 18-team end-of-season Davis Cup from 2019 — bank-rolled by Kosmos, a consortium led by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique.
With both team competitions to be held only six weeks apart, Kermode is convinced there is space for everything in the world of tennis provided it is done the right way. “My remit is to promote men’s professional tennis in the right way,” Kermode told media at a press conference that was also attended by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and American John Isner.
“We’ve had similar experiences when we launched the Next Gen ATP Finals and the Nitto ATP Finals. But we recognise the fact that the depth of men’s professional tennis is so great that it wouldn’t hurt to have another team event to start the season off with a bang leading up to the Nitto ATP Finals,” Kermode said.
“This announcement will change the landscape of the ATP Tour. The 24 countries will be divided into six groups of four with a round-robin determining the best advancing to the knockout stages after two singles and a doubles. Our ultimate goal is to have an impactful and vibrant start to the season.”
On Tuesday, the ITF, the ATP and Kosmos met on the sidelines of the Nitto ATP Finals to try and reach a possible amicable solution to ensure the re-branded Davis Cup doesn’t lose its gloss. “We have been talking to all in tennis, and I think it is time to take a fresh look at things. We have been very open to any discussion. Most of the bickering in the past is now outdated and as of Tuesday, we have moved forward a long way. But that said, we couldn’t also delay this [announcement] any longer,” Kermode said.
“We will keep these discussions going and stay open.”
Tiley, who has several hats to wear including the hosting of the Australian Open, the Hopman Cup and the Laver Cup, further reiterated what ATP chief said. “We are proud of our involvement with tennis at all levels,” Tiley said.
“One more event means it can be great for the fans and for the players at the same time.”
Djokovic — President of the ATP Players’ Council — came in briefly with Isner and spoke in favour. “It would be a great privilege to represent my country rather than just play for myself. It is nice to have an event that will make an impact,” the world No. 1 said.
Isner, who has played a lot of school and college tennis, was also pleased to be part of the new event. “Team sport is something special and I will take great pride to be part of this competition,” the giant American said.
A much smaller teams competition had previously taken place in Dusseldorf from 1978 to 2012. “We need to embrace new audiences and replace the old teams competition as it was more than 35 years old. It’s now time to move on and this new competition will keep tennis fresh and give the sport a big momentum,” Kermode said.