Australian doubles legend Todd Woodbridge says the International Tennis Federation has thrown a bomb into the sport’s landscape with its plan to revamp the historic Davis Cup.
The ITF has revealed plans to radically change the format of an event that was established in 1900 into a week-long end of season event.
“Our vision is to create a major season-ending finale that will be a festival of tennis and entertainment, featuring the world’s greatest players representing their nations to decide the Davis Cup champions,” ITF president David Haggerty said.
Instead of being held in different countries with home and away ties during the year, the season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals would involve a round robin format featuring the top 18 nations with the top eight teams moving into the knockout rounds.
Each tie would be three matches and the matches would be best of three sets instead of the current best of five model.
The announcement has surprised many in the Australian tennis community, including Woodbridge, a former Davis Cup coach.
“I’ve been around the Australian summer of tennis, Davis Cup, Fed Cup the last seven weeks and I’ve been in the commentary box with Lleyton Hewitt and there was no talk of any of this being thrown like a big bomb into the tennis landscape,” Woodbridge told ABC News.
“When you’ve got one of the greatest players in Australia’s Davis Cup history [Hewitt] and the competition’s history and he hasn’t been personally spoken to, you’ve got to ask questions about that due diligence and what is the ITF doing?
“Are they going out and sourcing the right opinions before making such a big change?”
Woodbridge was a member of the Australian teams that won the Davis Cup in 1999 and 2003. He questions whether the concept has widespread support.
“Has it got the players behind it? What’s it really going to look like? There are so many questions that are unanswered before they’ve put out a big statement like today,” Woodbridge said.
New Cup could start next year
The reworked competition has been endorsed by the ITF board of directors and if approved at the ITF AGM in August, it could start next year.
The lucrative event is the result of a $US3 billion ($3.82 billion), 25-year deal between the ITF and Kosmos, a company founded by Spanish soccer star, Gerard Pique.
The ITF says it has received interest from several world-class cities and Sydney could be a candidate.
“I think it’s an exciting announcement by the international tennis organisations to bring Davis Cup altogether in a one-week tournament with all of the nations and the world’s best players,” NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres told the ABC.
“I think that sounds exactly like the type of event we’d like to see in Sydney.”
A winner of 25 doubles matches in Davis Cup, Woodbridge acknowledges there’s too much tennis on the ATP schedule but says the revised Davis Cup proposal poses more questions than answers.
“I’m hoping that this is just a catalyst for discussion, I think there is so much that has to be worked out for this new proposal,” he said.
“What happens to the home and away tie? What happens to the individuality of Davis Cup because if you look at Davis Cup over its 100-plus years of history it is unique and it’s different.
“It’s that ability that makes it stand apart from a regular tennis week.”