Star trio support Pique's cup plans

World No. 1 Andy Murray hitting a forehand against Croatian Borna Coric in their third-round match at the Madrid Masters. He fell 6-3, 6-3, continuing a poor run of form this year.
World No. 1 Andy Murray hitting a forehand against Croatian Borna Coric in their third-round match at the Madrid Masters. He fell 6-3, 6-3, continuing a poor run of form this year.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Murray, Nadal, Djokovic back Barca star's vision for a 16-team knockout tournament

MADRID • Spanish footballer Gerard Pique's idea of a week-long men's tennis world tournament rivalling the Davis Cup has received support from leading players Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Pique was at the Madrid Open earlier this week, reportedly to discuss a 16-team knockout tournament with ATP Tour chief Chris Kermode.

It would potentially replace the former World Team Cup event on the ATP calendar that was played from 1975 to 2012 ahead of the French Open.

The Davis Cup format, featuring three-day matches spread over weekends in February, April, September and November, has often been hit by withdrawals from the sport's biggest names as they prefer to focus on Grand Slam preparations.

"I think that it's a really exciting idea. If it comes off, I think it would be a very, very good thing for tennis," world No. 1 Murray, a 2015 Davis Cup winner with Great Britain, said. "I think there are still a lot of things that need to be worked out before it potentially happens, but I think it would be a very good thing."

Nadal also supports his compatriot's initiative.

"I know from a long time there is a group (with Pique) that wants to create a World Cup. That would be a great and very interesting tournament to compete in," the 14-time Grand Slam champion said.

However, the International Tennis Federation has been reluctant on changing the format of the Davis Cup, with players also having to make themselves available for at least four matches in a four-year cycle to qualify for the Olympics.

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic warned Pique in his dealing with the "complex" structure of the sport's governing bodies, saying: "The tennis world is complex... There are many different governing bodies and many different associations that have the control over certain aspects of the game or tournaments. The schedule is also quite complicated."

But he hopes the Barcelona star's plans come to fruition. "To see one of the football greats coming to the tennis world and trying to support it personally, but also in some structural business way, can only bring positives to our sport," said the 12-time Grand Slam champion.

Djokovic moved into the semi-finals of the Madrid Open yesterday without hitting a ball as Kei Nishikori withdrew citing the recurrence of a wrist injury.

The Japanese world No. 8, who missed the Barcelona Open late last month owing to the injury, is a major doubt for next week's Rome Masters, with the May 28-June 11 French Open also looming.

Djokovic will face either Nadal or Belgium's David Goffin today.

On Thursday, Murray was beaten by Croatia's Borna Coric in the third round. Four days before his 30th birthday, the Scot cut a frustrated figure in the Spanish capital, berating himself and his coaching team during a 6-3, 6-3 defeat by the world No. 59.

He heads to Rome without a quarter-final appearance at any of the Grand Slams and Masters events that he has played in this year. His sole title this season came at the Dubai Championships in March.

"You can lose matches sometimes, but the manner of today's loss was disappointing," he told the BBC.

"I just wasn't focusing as well as I needed to on each point. Things can change fast but you need to find exactly what it is that is going wrong and how you're going to fix that and commit to it. And if I do that, I'm sure I can turn it round."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Star trio support Pique's cup plans'. Print Edition | Subscribe