Radical shake-up for Davis Cup gets approval

World tennis chiefs on Thursday approved a radical Davis Cup revamp championed by Barcelona star Gerard Pique that will overhaul the 118-year-old competition, condensing the annual worldwide showpiece into an 18-team, week-long event.

The makeover to one of sport's most famous and oldest global men's team tournaments has been a contentious issue within tennis but the ITF's plans to stage a World Cup-style tournament from 2019 received the necessary two-thirds majority from its 210 member nations.

The competition will begin with 24 teams playing home-or-away matches in February, with the 12 winners moving to the finals.

The ITF announced in February that it would be revamping the Davis Cup following a new deal with investment group Kosmos, founded and run by Spanish worldwide footballer Gerard Pique and backed by Rakuten chief executive Hiroshi Mikitani. "The Davis Cup is dead and part of the history of our sport vanishes for a fistful of dollars".

The U.S. Tennis Association was among the national federations that backed the changes.

The finals - to be staged in Madrid or Lille from 18 to 24 November - would be a round-robin format before a knockout phase, with matches consisting of two singles and one doubles rubber.

Added Aussie tennis legend John Newcombe: "Unfortunately their plan is a recipe for the death of the Davis Cup as we know it".

"Very disappointing to hear that the new Davis Cup proposal was passed today".

"I think Davis Cup has untapped potential", Pique said.

The finals would feature two singles matches and one doubles match each day, all cut to best-of-three sets.

The ITF believes this format will be more attractive to elite players who often pass on competing for their countries because of a crowded schedule. Next up on Auger-Aliassime's Canadian tennis checklist is to play in a Davis Cup final match on home soil.

What is the current format and how will it change?

In 203 characters, the Australian, the 1987 Wimbledon champion and two-time Davis Cup champion, summed up the thoughts of many in the tennis world who were left shocked by the International Tennis Federation's recent vote.

"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", Pique said in a statement.

Despite the farcical state of affairs, Australia could be forced to play the apparently redundant clay-court tie from September 14-16 - the weekend after the US Open - or risk being fined by the ITF or potentially suspended and docked world team rankings points. Current world number one Rafael Nadal and former number one Novak Djokovic are among the players in support of the reforms.

"Reform is vital for the competition but this proposal takes away too much of what makes the Davis Cup unique and special. 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".

There, they will join the four semi-finalists of the previous year, who will not have to play in February, and two wildcards that will be announced before the draw for the qualifying round.

  • Stacy Allen