LONDON (Reuters) - Men’s Tour chief Chris Kermode rejected suggestions of an ATP “land grab” when launching a new $15 million team tennis competition to start in Australia in January, 2020.
Details of the ATP Cup were revealed at a news conference at London’s O2 Arena on Thursday where Kermode was joined by Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley and world number one Novak Djokovic.
The new event, seen as a threat to the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) revamped 18-nation Davis Cup competition starting in Madrid next November, will take place over 10 days in three Australian cities.
The six-week gap between the two competitions was this year labeled “insane” by Kermode and Djokovic said on Wednesday the men’s calendar was at saturation point and it would result in “two average events”.
On Thursday, however, Djokovic put his weight behind the ATP Cup. “I like that it’s owned by ATP, by the players,” he said.
The ATP announced in July its new team event would start in January, drawing criticism from the ITF which said it was a “missed opportunity” to work together.
Scheduled for just before the year’s opening Grand Slam in Melbourne, and the incentive of ranking points, the ATP Cup looks a natural fit for the players.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev, one of the sport’s rising stars, said he would not play in the Davis Cup finals next year because it is at the end of an already-grueling season.
The ITF got the green light in August for a controversial revamp of the 118-year-old Davis Cup — one of the oldest team competitions in world sport.
Investment group Kosmos, headed by Spanish footballer Gerard Pique, is putting in $3 billion over 25 years, but unless the marquee players turn out it could be superseded by the ATP Cup.
Kermode, the ATP’s Executive Chairman and President, said productive talks had been held with the ITF about the calendar at this week’s ATP Finals in London.
“The issue is timing, being so close, I get that,” Kermode told a news conference, following a video collage of players pledging their support to the ATP Cup.
“But there seems to be a fixation that the ATP Cup has caused the issue with the Davis Cup which is not the case.
“Even if the ATP Cup didn’t exist, the Davis Cup still doesn’t have a week which is the issue.
“We all know it’s complicated, but I think it’s time to have a fresh look. It’s not an ATP land grab or anything like, it’s us promoting big events to attract new audiences.”
As well as cash, the ATP Cup, being run in conjunction with Tennis Australia, is offering up to 750 ranking points — a huge incentive for the players.
Tiley said he was “pumped” for the new competition.
“This is going to be special, it’s going to be fantastic to launch the year with this event and it will create interest immediately,” said Tiley, who is heavily involved in another team event, September’s Laver Cup.
“In 2020 we will run a great event and in partnership with the ATP Tour we will do all we can to ensure the Davis Cup is also a magnificent global event,” he added.
The ATP Cup will clash with the ATP’s Doha tournament, an event in Brisbane and the Hopman Cup.
Nations will be split into six groups, with eight emerging to compete in a knockout phase.
Teams will comprise two to five players, with the format being two singles and one doubles rubber. Nations will qualify based on the ranking of their top player.
Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond