LONDON (AFP) - The Davis Cup is set for a dramatic transformation that would see a new season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring 18 nations, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced on Monday (Feb 26).
The ITF unveiled plans for a 25-year, US$3 billion (S$4 billion) partnership with investment group Kosmos, founded by Barcelona football star Gerard Pique, to shake up the current format, which sits uneasily in the packed calendar.
Currently, the Davis Cup is structured around a 16-nation World Group, contested over four weekends during the year. The remaining countries are then divided into three regional zones.
ITF president David Haggerty described the proposed new format, which could be launched as early as next year pending a vote at the ITF general meeting in August, as "a complete game-changer for the ITF and for tennis".
"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," he said.
Pique said: "Together we can elevate Davis Cup... to new heights by putting on a must-see World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring the top nations and top players."
The investment will see significant increases in prize money to lure the sport's top stars, who often skip Davis Cup matches, and provide funding for grassroots tennis projects.
The ITF said it was already liasing with potential hosts over launching the tournament in November 2019.
Under the plans, the World Cup of Tennis Finals would be played over seven days in November in the traditional week of the Davis Cup Final, featuring a round-robin format followed by a quarter-final knockout stage.
Each tie would consist of two singles and one doubles match over best-of-three sets as opposed to the current best-of-five rubbers format (four singles and one doubles match, each played over five sets).
The 16 World Group nations would automatically qualify for the finals, with a further two nations also selected.
The idea was backed by a host of the sport's leading players when Pique attended the Madrid Masters in May to outline his vision.
"Pique is part of a group that wants to create a World Cup that would be a great and very interesting tournament to compete in," said 16-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal.