With the ATP Cup officially poised to challenge Davis Cup as the leading team event in tennis, Gerard Piqué’s team at Kosmos, the investment fund now managing the 120-year-old competition, has decided to ramp up its efforts to promote their competition and ensure the success of their 25-year, 3-billion-dollar investment. During the first days of the Australian Open the ITF has invited a small group of journalists to a Melbourne hotel for an informal discussion about the new Davis Cup format with some of the top executives from Kosmos.
While ITF President David Haggerty was in Lausanne discussing with IOC President Thomas Bach how Olympic eligibility criteria would need to be modified in light of the new format for Davis Cup (we were told that seven formal letters have been sent from the ITF to the IOC in relation to this matter) for the 2020-2024 period (it has already been established that current criteria will remain in place to determine eligibility for Tokyo 2020), it was up to Kosmos Tennis CEO Javier Alonso, Chief Competition Officer Galo Blanco (former ATP player and coach) and ITF Senior Executive Director for Professional Tennis Kris Dent to entertain a dozen journalist for a working breakfast at the Hotel Pullman on the Park in Melbourne, just steps away from Rod Laver Arena.
Despite the façade of extreme confidence in their business model, both from a financial and from a tennis standpoint, it was impossible for them to deny the existence of several issues to be sorted out, starting from the position of the Davis Cup Finals in the calendar. “We believe there is a global scheduling issue in tennis – said Kris Dent – and we are more than willing to move our competition to the date that makes more sense for tennis in general, regardless of the specific interests of the individual stakeholders”. And while this statement sounds extremely accommodating at first, it has to be noted that at the moment the Davis Cup Finals have possibly the worst week in the calendar, and any change would likely be a change for the better for this competition. “During the ATP Finals week in London we made a proposal to the ATP, the WTA and the Grand Slam tournaments, and we are waiting for their answer. We have included in the conversation also the Laver Cup through their shareholders Tennis Australia and USTA”. In fact, the Laver Cup probably holds the best card in this entire poker game, since it is positioned in the week that would be ideal for the Davis Cup Finals: starting seven days after the end of the US Open and ending seven days before the Asian swing, the Laver Cup is now in a position to hold to ransom the entire tennis world while just being a non-sanctioned two-year-old competition.
Another problem faced by Kosmos is players’ willingness to make themselves available for a competition that, as it stands, it cuts into their already limited off-season, without having to use Olympic eligibility as a coercive tool, since it is now being challenged by the players directly at an IOC level. For this purpose, Kosmos hired Galo Blanco, former ATP pro and more recently coach to top players like Raonic, Khachanov and Thiem, whose main task is to answer all questions about the competition any player, coach or captain may have. “Some of them were reluctant to play in Madrid in November because they thought the surface would be clay. But it won’t be on clay: the surface will be the same as the one that is used at the O2 Arena for the ATP Finals. I’m here to reassure them about all the details of the competition”.
Kosmos expects droves of fans to travel to Madrid for a week and make a great atmosphere for the event. “Our dream – Blanco continues – is to have a packed stadium for the final, with half of the fans dressed in the colors of one team and the other half dressed in the colors of the other finalist”. It is true that the old Davis Cup format did not allow to know the teams competing in the final and the venue for the event until late September-beginning of October, and this was a potential obstacle to fans arranging the trip. Now teams and venue will be known as of mid-February. However, a Davis Cup Final has always been a 3-day affair, while with the new format fans will be expected to be at the venue for the entire week, and although Kosmos does not see this as a problem, fans (and their bank accounts) may think differently.
The new Davis Cup Finals format is certainly an improvement for players, even if some of them have been very candidly saying they will not play: “I remember that when I was a player it was very difficult to commit to playing Davis Cup because it could mean up to 7-8 weeks of your schedule occupied by the competition – says Blanco – It’s definitely too much. Now that commitment has been reduced by half and we believe it is now much more manageable”.
What Kosmos and ITF want to stress is the flow of fresh money this new Davis Cup format will bring into tennis: now players will play for a very large prize money at the Finals ($20 million a year) and tennis federations will receive substantial funding they will be able to invest in player development. “We have also plans including Fed Cup – adds Dent – that as of 2019 will see its prize money doubled with an increase of approximately 4 million dollars”.
The “war of team cups” is just getting started, the first round of the new Davis Cup by Kosmos is just a few weeks away but the crucial battle will be fought between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, when in a six-week time span there will be two substantially identical competitions each promoted by a different organism. We could say “let the best win”: we just hope there will still be a sport to follow when the dust settles on the battlefield.
Roger Federer Cast Doubt On Return To Davis Cup
The Swiss Maestro addresses his future in the team competition.
20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer has admitted that there is a chance that he may not play in the Davis Cup again before he retires from the sport.
The former world No.1 hasn’t played in the team competition since 2015. This year the event has undergone a major revamp with the help of financial backing from investment company Kosmos. In November 18 teams will travel to Madrid and play in a week-long round-robin format. Removing the tradition of home and away ties. Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will be playing in the event.
One of the most notable absentees from the event will be Federer as Switzerland hasn’t qualified for the finals. However, the 38-year-old has in the past voiced his concerns over Gerald Pique’s involvement. Pique is the founder of Kosmos.
“I put in a lot of energy into the Davis Cup over the years.” Federer told reporters in Shanghai.
“I played a lot of matches. It’s been a lot of work. Winning (the title) in 2014 was a dream come true for Stan and me and the team, and Rosset, even though he was not on the team, he thought it was the greatest thing ever, and it was.”
Federer has represented his country in 27 Davis ties during his career and has won 52 out of 70 matches played. He has won more matches in the competition than any other player from his country. Whilst boasting a strong record, Federer admits that he is uncertain about playing in the event again.
“I have not officially retired from the Davis Cup, so that means I don’t know what to tell you, maybe, but obviously more likely no than yes, as I’m getting older and I have other things I would like to also do and go to places I have never played before.” Federer replied when asked about his future in the Davis Cup.
“It’s one thing and then having the four children and the wife is another. I just can’t be everywhere. I always said when you play the Davis Cup you have to miss out on Masters 1000. Is that worth the give? Not always. Not for me anyway.”
In recent years Federer has applied his focus to another team event – the Laver Cup, which he co-founded. From 2020 there will be three team tournaments taking place on the men’s tour every year due to the revival in the ATP Cup in January.
“Federer was the only player reluctant to play this new Davis Cup.” Pique told Spanish TV programme e ’El Hormiguero’.
“He has the Laver Cup too and, whatever you say, there is bound to be some competition.
“It is not easy. We are there working and I think that in the end we will understand each other.”
The Davis Cup finals will get underway on November 18th at the Caja Magica, which is the venue of the Madrid Open. Meanwhile, at the same time Federer will be going on a tour of South America where he will play a series of exhibition matches. Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin del Potro will join him on parts of the tour.
Juan Martin Del Potro Hits Back At Claim Made By Pique Over Davis Cup Involvement
It had been claimed that the former top 10 player was pondering playing in Madrid later this year.
The team of former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro has denied that he has been involved in talks with Kosmos to play in the revamped Davis Cup later this year.
It had been claimed by Kosmos founder Gerard Pique that the Argentine has been in negotiations about playing the event, which has undergone a change in format. In November 18 teams will travel to Madrid to play in a week-long group competition. Similar to that of the football World Cup. A move that has divided opinion in the sport with critics arguing that the change is too radical.
“We are talking with Del Potro, (but) it obviously depends on the injury, see how he returns. But yes, we are in permanent contact with him.” Ubitennis’ Spanish-language site quoted Pique as saying.
Pique, who plays football for Barcelona F.C, was caught on audio saying the statement. However, it has now been suggested that he has either misspoken on even lied about del Potro. A statement issued by Del Potro’s communications team stated that no such thing has happened.
“TeamDelpo clarifies that there were no negotiations between the Kosmos Group and Juan Martin del Potro about the next Davis Cup in Madrid.” Their statement reads.
“We deny in this way the journalistic versions that speak of economic arrangements, “approaches”, “departures” or “concrete offers.”
The 30-year-old hasn’t played a match on the ATP Tour since injuring his knee at the Fever-Tree Championships in June. The latest setback for the injury-stricken player, who has undergone five surgeries since 2014. Del Potro is set to start his latest comeback in Europe at the Swedish Open, which will start on October 14th.
It has been rumoured that during the Davis Cup finals, Del Potro could play Roger Federer in an exhibition match in his home country on November 20th. Federer is another high-profile absentee from the team event. The potential clash has been reported by Argentinian journalist Danny Miche in his podcast. However, it is understood that nothing is finalised as of yet due to various economic factors.
There has been no response so far from Kosmos regarding Del Potro’s statement.
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Gerard Pique Sheds Light On Chances of Roger Federer Returning To Davis Cup
The Swiss maestro is the only member of the Big Three not to feature in the revamped event later this year.
There is a 50/50 chance that Roger Federer could play in next year’s Davis Cup finals, according to Kosmos founder Gerard Pique.
The Barcelona F.C. player has confirmed that talks are ongoing about the former world No.1 featuring in the historic event, which has been revamped this year. For the first time in it’s 119-year history, the finals will take place over a week and feature 18 teams taking part in a round-robin format. The change has split opinion in the sport, but was given the green light at the ITF’s annual AGM meeting last year. Pique’s investment company Kosmos is a key financial backer of the changes.
One notable absence from this year’s finals, which will be held in Madrid, is Federer. The former world No.1 has in the past been a critic of the new format. Once saying the tournament has been designed for ‘the future generation of players,’ but not him. He has also warned against the team competition being turned into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term the Spaniard is not a fan of.
“I wanted since the first moment I arrived in the tennis world, is to try to help this sport.” Pique said during an interview with Sport Business.
“Switzerland has not qualified for November so even if Roger wants to play in this event, he cannot, but we are talking with him and his agent to discuss the possibility to play in 2020.”
As is currently stands, Federer is the only member of the big three not to be playing. Rafael Nadal has vowed to play if healthy and Novak Djokovic announced his attendance on the eve of the US Open. The Serbian had previously expressed his reservations over participating due to its close proximity to the ATP Cup, another team event that will kick-off in January.
“I just feel like the date of the Davis Cup is really bad, especially for the top players. Between the two, I will prioritize the World Team Cup because that’s a competition of ATP.” The world No.1 said last year.
So why has Djokovic decided to play in Madrid? When asked in Flushing Meadows he said he wanted to represent his country. However, Pique believes there is more to it than that. Saying that he had managed to persuade the Serbian following conversations between the two.
“I said to him, ‘I know you are an ATP player but at the same time you represent the federation of Serbia, which is part of the ITF which invests in young talent and the future of tennis. I think it makes total sense that you participate in both competitions because it is a message that at the end of the day that you want [for the ATP and ITF] to work together.”
One criticism of the event is the timing of the finals. They will take place between November 18-24, the week after the ATP Finals in London. Partly eating into what is already a relatively short off-season for many players on the tour.
ITF President David Haggerty is hoping that negotiations over a potential change in dates can be made in the future with the new leader of the ATP. Current CEO Chris Kermode will be leaving his position later this year after failing to receive enough backing in a ATP board meeting.
“There is leadership change coming and once that’s completed we will continue discussions to see what’s the best date.” Haggerty outlined.
“We need to have the first Davis Cup finals in November and the ATP Cup will be in January and then we will have more facts and have a good discussion.”
The inaugural Davis Cup finals will be held at the Caja Magica. The same venue as the Madrid Open, which takes place annually in May.
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