ATP and ITF still at loggerheads over men's team event
The heads of the ATP, men's tennis' professional tour, and the International Tennis Federation, the sport's world governing body, are in agreement there is no room for two national team competitions in the calendar, but neither appears willing to back down from their individual proposals.
Chris Kermode (pictured), executive chairman and president of the ATP, said it would be "insane" for the ATP's revived World Team Cup to take place in January 2020, less than two months after the ITF's planned World Cup of Tennis Finals, the revamped Davis Cup.
The ATP has advanced plans with Tennis Australia to stage the WTC in Australia at the start of 2020, with Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney all mooted as potential hosts of a nationwide tournament.
In February, the ITF announced a 25-year, $3-billion partnership with 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.
The plan is to create a new annual season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals starting in 2019. It would feature 18 nations and be played over one week in one city in November.
If both competitions are approved, men’s players will end their season at the World Cup of Tennis and after a very short break, start preparing for the WTC and the Australian Open, the opening grand slam of the year.
Kermode told the BBC, the UK public-service broadcaster: “It doesn’t make any sense to have two team events. Personally I think that would be insane. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen... Davis Cup is a sports entity that has been around for hundreds of years and we value it.
“Equally the World Team Cup was an event we had for 35 years. It’s been off the shelf for a while, but could we bring that back? I think there’s clearly a demand for a huge team event that anyone can buy into.”
He said the ATP and ITF had held talks but failed to find a solution so far, and that the decision over which tournament goes ahead will be based on the players’ support for either.
ITF president David Haggerty told Sportcal last month that it would "be better to have one competition."
He continued: "It is something that tennis needs to work on together. We need to have some discussions to see what we can do for the good of tennis globally. But having two competitions too close together just does not seem to make sense.
"What I like about our plan is we really don’t affect the calendar. It’s already there. We are not moving tournaments around as Tennis Australia is doing. We’re not impacting on three or four events. It’s cleaner and also the money we bring in from prize money is truly incremental. It’s not taking it from elsewhere."
The ITF's proposal must gain the necessary approval of two-thirds of the membership at August’s annual general meeting.
Meanwhile, the ATP has announced it will continue to innovate at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, the tournament for players aged 21 and under. The tournament debuted in Milan last year and will return to the Italian city this November.
Once again, it will be a best-of-five-set format, with sets to four games, no ad scoring and no lets to be played. There will also be electronic line calling through Hawk-Eye Live, a 25-second shot clock and in-match player coaching via headsets.
The format, designed to generate more pivotal moments without drastically reducing the length of traditional best-of-three set matches, produced matches with an average duration of 1 hour 36 minutes in 2017, three minutes shorter than the average on the regular 2017 ATP World Tour.
Kermode said: "Tennis is a sport that is steeped in history and tradition, and there’s no question that should be safeguarded. However, this new event has allowed us to look at some potential changes, and we received very positive feedback from our stakeholders on the format of last year’s event.
"We recognise, however, that we need a bigger sample size to help us draw effective conclusions, so this year’s event will give us that continuity to help us assess which of the changes, if any, we want to incorporate onto the regular tour for 2019."
The Next Gen ATP Finals are set to take place in Milan through 2021.