By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Men’s Tour chief Chris Kermode rejected suggestions of an ATP “land grab” when launching a new $15 million team competition to start in Australia in January 2020.
Details of the ATP Cup, as it will be known, 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 Davis Cup, which will start with an 18-nation finals in Madrid next November, will take place over 10 days in three Australian cities.
The six-week gap between the two competitions was earlier this year labelled “insane” by Kermode, and on Wednesday Djokovic suggested 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 rival events have put the ATP, which runs the men’s Tour, and tennis’s world governing body on collision course.
With its prime January slot, just before the year’s opening Grand Slam in Melbourne, the ATP Cup is a more attractive proposition for the players than the Davis Cup which will come at the end of their already long seasons.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev, one of the sport’s rising stars, said he would not play in the Davis Cup finals.
Kermode, the ATP’s Executive Chairman and President, said talks had been held with the ITF at this week’s ATP Finals, including about freeing up a preferable date for the Davis Cup.
“The issue is timing, being so close, I get that,” Kermode said at 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, we have 64 (ATP) events and we have the Slams, it’s a lot of tennis. But I think it’s time to have a fresh look. It’s not going to happen overnight, but the tone of that meeting (with the ITF) was very good.”
“It’s not an ATP land grab or anything like,” Kermode added. “This is us promoting big events in which we can 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 and said more than three cities were keen to stage it.
“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, while offering an olive branch to the ITF over its predicament over a date for the Davis 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 said.
The ATP Cup, which will clash with the ATP’s Doha tournament, will see nations 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.
The criteria for entry will be based off the ATP ranking of the number one singles player from each country.
In August the ITF got the go-ahead to revamp the 118-year-old Davis Cup with investment group Kosmos, headed by Spanish footballer Gerard Pique, putting in $3 billion over 25 years.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)