The International Tennis Federation voted Thursday to reformat the Davis Cup, the 118-year-old men’s international team tennis event, changing it from a competition that is played over four weekends throughout the year to a season-ending, 18-team tournament played over one week, World Cup–style.
Two thirds of the 140 countries represented voted in favor of the change. From the AP:
Beginning in 2019, 24 nations will compete in a home-or-away qualifying round in February, with the 12 winners advancing to the final tournament. They will be joined by the four semifinalists from the previous year, along with two wild-card teams.
The first championship will be held Nov. 18-24, 2019, in either Madrid or Lille, France.
“We are very pleased the ITF member nations voted to approve the Davis Cup proposal,” the USTA said in a statement. “The new format will project Davis Cup into the 21st century and elevate tennis’ premiere annual team competition to the heights it deserves.”
Many of the best tennis players currently opt to skip the Davis Cup because it conflicts with other tournaments and preparation for Grand Slam tournaments. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and other players support the changes, which would also include shortening the matches from best of five sets to best of three. The reforms were pushed by an investment group, led by Barcelona football star Gerard Pique, called Kosmos. It will spend $3 billion over 25 years on the new event, leading status quo defenders to accuse the ITF of selling out.
ITF President David Haggerty said earlier this week that the changes would help improve the sport:
“The money that we will make will go to the nations to put into their development programs for juniors and for the future of tennis,” Haggerty said Tuesday during a conference call.
In the current model, only the team hosting the Davis Cup sees much financial benefit, Haggerty said, whereas “this will be $25 million of incremental funding that goes to 200 nations around the world for Davis Cup, for Fed Cup, and for development.”
Seems reasonable enough for a tournament that is already considered something of a second-tier event and doesn’t count towards players’ ATP records. But not everyone was happy with the vote, like the German tennis federation:
Disappointment is natural. What about former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash?
Tennis players already play a crowded schedule and year-end tournaments (part of why many currently sit out the Davis Cup), but that’s a viable question. French player Nico Mahut also weighed in:
This roughly translates to:
Even Cincinnati mourns the ridiculous decision of @ITF_Tennis The 12 votes of the FFT have done very bad. Decision very difficult to assume as French ... The Davis Cup is dead and part of the history of our sport soaring for a handful of dollars.
That’s pretty dramatic. How about English player and lovable schlub Marcus Willis?
Are changes to a tennis tournament actually like right-wing politicians leading a charge to remove an entire country from the European Union, thereby threatening to unravel decades of international cooperation? French women’s player Alize Cornet, can you come up with a worse analogy?