The ATP Tour has reached an agreement with Davis Cup organizers which will help end the need for two men’s team competitions in the space of six weeks.
Tennis Australia is finalizing plans for a mixed team event to replace January’s ATP Cup as the ATP forges an alliance with the Davis Cup, which concludes in late November.
ATP executive chairman Chris Kermode said the prospect of staging the two male team events a few weeks apart was “insane” when the concept of the ATP Cup was first mooted in 2018.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF), which runs the Davis Cup with its investment partner Kosmos, has been in regular contact with the ATP ever since.
But an agreement, until recently, had proved elusive.
Many at the ATP appreciate the value and history of the Davis Cup, which was first contested 122 years ago. The chairman, Andrea Gaudenzi, is a fan and played for Italy in the 1998 final against Sweden.
The ATP’s support will enhance the position of the competition in the calendar. It will shore up three Davis Cup weeks a year: the qualifying round in February, the 16-team group stage in September, and the eight-team finals played in late November.
But despite the new alliance, ranking points will not initially be available. The subject has been raised, I understand, but no agreement reached about the number of points that would be appropriate.
The ITF has always been keen to stress the competition is about the pride of playing for your country, while the ATP may have reservations about how the teams are chosen. Davis Cup captains can make discretionary selections, and are not currently obliged to pick the highest-ranked players.
There should be room for negotiation in the years to come. In fact, any reform of the competition will carry more weight if it has the blessing of the ATP Tour.
No formal announcements have yet been made, with the sequence likely to be influenced by the existing legal agreement between the ATP and Tennis Australia for the ATP Cup.
Tennis Australia are likely to be the first to announce their new venture later this month. The United Cup will be a mixed team event staged over 11 days in several Australian cities in the run up to January’s Australian Open.
The competition will offer ranking points, $15m (£13.5m) prize money and has every chance of success given the current appetite for more mixed team competitions.
The Hopman Cup, which was staged in Perth every January for 30 years, ended on a high in 2019 when a record 14,000 fans watched Serena Williams and Roger Federer go head-to-head in a mixed doubles match.
Establishing a men only competition in 2020 seemed a backwards step. The ATP Cup was admittedly very popular with the players, but it lost a lot of money and struggled to attract large crowds – a problem exacerbated by having to stage two of the three editions during the Covid pandemic.
The negotiations between the parties continue to be torturous, but it appears as if the end result may for once be something that will please almost everyone.