ATP President Chris Kermode (4R), US player John Isner (3R) and Serbia's Novak Djokovic (2R) speak at the launch of the new ATP cup tournament on the sidelines of the ATP tour finals in London on November 15, 2018. - The tournament will be played across three Australian cities over ten days in the lead up to the Australian Open and will feature teams from 24 countries from 2020. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Tennis | ATP Cup plans unveiled: 5 thoughts amidst criticism of the tour calendar by Djokovic & Zverev
Wait, though – does this not similar to the self-styled ‘World Cup of Tennis’ now being spear-headed and starting at the end of next year by the ITF, Gerard Pique and Kosmos?
Why yes, yes it is similar, and therein lies the rub. The saving grace for this tournament is if course its place in the calendar and the fact it offers huge prize money and more importantly ranking points.
Well what indeed. Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President informed press at the launch that there have been several meetings with the ATP Tour, the Slams and the ITF to review the calendar and how it pans out, because as it stands at the end of 2019 we will see the new-style competition taking place between 18-24 November, with the ATP Cup starting in Week One of the 2020 Calendar potentially starting on 2 January – just four weeks after the completion of the Davis Cup.
Alexander Zverev in particular this week has been critical about the length of the calendar, when questioned about whether he had been quite 100% in his loss to Novak Djokovic.
He said: “I haven’t felt my best in, like, two months, to be honest. The issue is that our season is way too long. That’s the issue. But I’ve said it before. We play for 11 months a year. That’s ridiculous. No other professional sport does that.”
That being said – Zverev was one of the talking heads in the ATP Cup promo, and after his first round-robin win over Marin Cilic, he seemed a lot more up-beat about participating in this tournament than his plans for Davis Cup
“Next year is no ATP World Cup yet, so it’s the year after. I’ve said it before, I’m not going to play Davis Cup in November. I am going to play in February in Germany, in Frankfurt, I’m going to do that.
“But the Davis Cup has some serious issues to think about, I think. One of them is the dates. I think the dates is very important and I think none of the top players will play, except Rafa because it’s in Spain. I’m very, very sure that a lot of top players will not play. We’ll see how it goes.
“The World Cup, I don’t know much about it yet. It’s still a long time to go for the event. Hopefully, it’s going to be a good event. Obviously, it’s in the first week of the year, so it makes sense to play, and it’s in Australia as well. So it’s not bad schedule-wise.”
Davis Cup, Laver Cup and now ATP Cup – but in a packed calendar where do you put them, and what is best for fans?
With a handful of countries playing in the qualifying round in February, and the finals in November, and Laver Cup popping up once more after the US Open finishes in September so 2019 should not such much chance to the calendar we are used to.
But from 2020 it is a different story. The new 10-day competition will be in the first week of the year, when the options were usually Brisbane, Doha and Pune. The latter will now move to after the Australian Open, and for those players who qualify and choose to play in the ATP Cup – they will have 10 days of match-play and then preparation for the Australian Open.
Then players may be involved in Davis Cup final qualification depending on their countries fortunes in 2019.
A handful of elite world and European players may find themselves in Laver Cup hits and giggles in September, and then potentially in Davis Cup action at the end of the year.
Novak Djokovic talked at length about some of the issues he has faced on the ATP Player Council, after his opening round at the Nitto ATP Finals.
“The Davis Cup and World Team Cup situation is delicate. We find ourselves in this kind of particular circumstances and situations that we have to deal with right now. I think in the next two years we’ll have both events happening in a very similar format if not the same, six weeks apart. Whether I think that’s good for our sport, I honestly don’t think it’s good for the sport.
“More job opportunities for players, yes. But I think it’s not sustainable. It will happen that we will have two average events. So I think creating one event is an ideal scenario and I think outcome for everyone. From what I’ve heard from conversations with people from all of the sides, different sides in this sport, they all want to have one event because it’s oversaturated with different cups, different events. We have the longest season in all sports. We’re just adding events. We kind of have to try to focus on quality rather than quantity.
“Obviously Laver Cup is not an official competition. It doesn’t have the points. But it has to be regarded as a very successful, very serious competition that attracts a lot of attention. I watched it on TV last year. I was part of it this year.
“I can definitely say it has attracted a lot of success and attention. So far it’s been the only competition that can actually get the biggest rivals in sport in one team. That was a very unique experience.
“So, yeah, I mean, this part of the year after the Grand Slam season is done, you have post US Open, Laver Cup, then Davis Cup, World Team Cup first week of the year. It’s really over-saturated. Within three, four months, it’s too many events. We’ll have to work it out. But we have to start from somewhere.”
It really does. Despite their comments in press this week, both Djokovic and Zverev were talking heads in the ATP video praising this initiative. The promise of ranking points is tipping the scales at the moment.
There are no ranking points available for Davis Cup, but the ITF does have a small glimmer of hope to keep interest in the 118-year-old competition alive – Olympic selection and qualification. For those players that want to represent their country, they must put in their Davis Cup time – so Zverev is safe as far as 2020 is concerned.
We are still waiting for more tangible details other than ‘innovative’ and ‘fresh’ which to be honest makes it sounds like a lively salad bowl at Sainsbury’s. It looks as though Doha will remain on the calendar, Pune will move, and it is surely likely that Brisbane will be considered as one of the host cities.
Brisbane, however, is one of the established season openers for the WTA as they line up two Premier events here, and then the week after in Sydney.
The Hopman Cup is the biggest casualty – and it will occupy that early slot in the calendar. It was a popular event, even if it did not have any rankings or weight attached to it – plenty of men and women used it as a legitimate season opener, including Roger Federer who will return for presumably its last run in 2019.
The biggest issue for the Davis Cup is where it claims its weeks. Maybe the solution is for it to play the final in September, but with the laver Cup also in that time frame and, while it is an exhibition, it is a very popular format and draw, if it maintains its popularity while players like Federer, Djokovic and arguably Rafael Nadal continue to prioritise it post-US Open, then surely the death knell is beginning to sound softly for the Davis Cup?
Whichever way you look at it – the ITF went too far in its changes and ignoring feedback and have been roundly caught napping while the Laver Cup and now the ATP Cup have stolen a march in capturing ground.
The Davis Cup (as was) will close out the 2018 season, and takes place between 23-25 November.
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