Tennis: Djokovic backs new ATP Cup men's team event

(From left) ATP president Chris Kermode, US player John Isner and Djokovic speak at the ATP cup launch.
(From left) ATP president Chris Kermode, US player John Isner and Djokovic speak at the ATP cup launch.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Novak Djokovic has backed a new men's team competition from 2020 just a day after he had raised serious concerns over the timing of the event, which will take place shortly after the revamped Davis Cup.

The ATP Cup, announced by the ATP and Tennis Australia on Thursday (Nov 15) during the ATP Finals in London, will be played across three Australian cities over 10 days in the lead-up to the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, which starts in January.

It will offer US$15 million (S$20 million) in prize money and up to 750 ATP Rankings points to the winners.

"I like that it's owned by ATP, by the players, and that we have ranking points, and it's going to be the best way to kickstart the season," said world number one Djokovic.

"More than 90 per cent of the time we're playing as individuals and we don't have too many team events.

"This is going to bring together a lot of nations and for me personally it will be a very nice and proud moment to represent my country."

Djokovic, who is president of the ATP player council, had said on Wednesday that having two similar team tournaments so close together would not be sustainable, also expressing concerns over the length of the tennis season.

 

"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," he said.

"I honestly don't think it's good for the sport... It will happen that we will have two average events." .

DAVIS CUP FEARS

A revamped Davis Cup tournament will take place from November 2019, bringing together 18 nations in one place for a week at the end of the season.

The Davis Cup is run by the ITF, the governing body of world tennis, while the ATP, which runs the men's Tour, will stage the ATP Cup.

Earlier this week, world number five Alexander Zverev said almost all the top players would skip the Davis Cup.

"The Davis Cup has some serious issues to think about, I think," he said.

"One of them is the dates. I think the dates are very important and I think none of the top players will play, except Rafa (Rafael Nadal) 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 format of the ATP Cup will see nations split into six groups, with eight teams emerging from the round-robin stage to compete in the knockout phase.

There will be up to five players in each team, with ties comprising two singles matches and one doubles match.