By: Sports Desk | Updated: August 16, 2018 9:23:23 pm
International Tennis Federation (ITF) members voted in favour of complete overhaul of the Davis Cup at tennis organisation’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Orlando, Florida on Thursday morning. Needing two-thirds majority to implement proposed World Cup-style event, 71% of the ITF members voted in favour of the changes. The new format comes into play next year with the finals to be played between November 18-24 in Madrid or Lille.
Among the nations with most votes, France, Unites States, Switzerland, Spain, had voted ‘Yes’ for the overhaul and were joined by Agrgentina, Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, Belgium and Turkey. In the ‘No’ camp stood Britain, Germany, Australia, and India.
ITF President David Haggerty said: “I am delighted that the nations have today voted to secure the long-term status of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. By voting in favour of these reforms, we will be able to work with Kosmos to realise the huge potential of the competition and elevate it to new standards. This new event will create a true festival of tennis and entertainment which will be more attractive to players, to fans, to sponsors and to broadcasters.
“In addition, the new revenues for nations that the event will generate will have a transformative effect on the development of tennis in all nations. Our mission is to ensure that this historic decision will benefit the next generation of players for decades to come.
“I would like to thank the nations for taking this historic decision and the ITF Board of Directors for their commitment and support. I would also like to thank Kosmos for their passion and partnership. I have no doubt that by working together we will ensure a brighter future for tennis all around the world.”
Under the format, the new Davis Cup will condensed from a year-round competition to two weeks, double the total prize money to at least $20 million and shorten the matches from traditional best-of-five sets to best-of-three sets.
At present, in the top division of Davis Cup, 15 national teams compete over four knockout rounds over the course of the year with a two-team final in November hosted by one of the finalists.
In the new Davis Cup format, backed by a $3 billion commitment over 25 years from investment group Kosmos and Barcelona football player Gerard Pique, would bring in 18 national teams to a neutral site for a week in November each year. The initial venue would be in Europe to reduce travel concerns for players who would compete in the ATP World Tour Finals the same month in London.
Pique, who was in Orlando for the vote on permission from the club, “Today is a historic day and we are convinced that the agreement ratified by the nations certainly guarantees the future of the Davis Cup and the development of tennis at all levels,” said in a statement.
“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. I would also like to congratulate all those who, with their votes, have embraced this change and have seen the momentous decision that was in their hands.”
“This is the beginning of a new stage that guarantees the pre-eminent and legitimate place that the Davis Cup should have as a competition for national teams while adapting to the demands of this professional sport at the highest level. It is a great honour for me to be part of this historic process of a sport that I am passionate about and, without a doubt, in both personal and professional terms this is one of the happiest days of my life.”
The preliminary round, to be played in February, comprising 12 head-to-head matches will be hosted by national federations. Winners of these matches would go on to the 18-team final alongside last year’s semifinalists and two wild card nations selected by the organisers. The decision and plan over the wild card remained a big question mark.
The final set of matches would be played on a round-robin format with eight teams advancing to the knockout stages. Each matchup would consist of two singles matches and one doubles match instead of the current four singles matches and a doubles match.
Another backer of the idea is American billionaire Larry Ellison, who had said he will invest in the revamped Davis Cup and has put his Indian Wells facility available to host the event in 2021 – two years after Europe plays host.
Tennis Australia expresses disappointment
Soon after the result was announced, Tennis Australia expressed their “disappointment” with the outcome. “Reform is vital for the competition but this proposal takes away too much of what makes the Davis Cup unique and special, especially the home and away aspect which has brought elite tennis to so many fans around the world,” read the statement.
“The ITF now has a major responsibility to ensure the great heritage and prestige of the competition is somehow retained in this new version of Davis Cup.”
Meanwhile, USTA was left pleased with the decision. “We are very pleased the ITF member nations voted to approve the Davis Cup proposal. The new format will project Davis Cup into the 21st century and elevate tennis’ premiere annual team competition to the heights it deserves,” said the statement.
German Tennis Association’s president Ulrich Klaus said: “This result is a very bitter pill to swallow. Right now, I am at a loss for words. Sadly, the discussion in the last few days was mainly about money and not about the sport.”
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