Speaking to the Telegraph today, the president of the International Tennis Federation – David Haggerty – confirmed this column's disclosure that the new Davis Cup model will retain an element of home-and-away after all.
In the same interview, Haggery also revealed plans to take the Fed Cup down the same road in 2020.
During a wide-ranging update on the ITF's position, Haggerty explained the model that he and investment group Kosmos are now working on. “We are looking at a round of 24 teams in home-and-away ties in February, in the week after the Australian Open, producing 12 winners. They would then go on to the November tournament, along with the four semi-finalists from the previous year, and two invited teams.” To clarify, this adds up to 18 participants at the proposed year-ending event.
“It’s important for the national federations to be able to stage ties,” Haggerty added. “It’s a way of promoting the sport and of connecting with fans.” It is worth noting, however, that the new model might leave tennis’s powerhouse nations – the likes of France and Spain – playing fewer February ties than their rivals, as a result of regularly finishing in the last four.
The ITF’s Fed Cup plans are also moving forward, after numerous leading figures in the women’s game – including British Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong – asked why so much effort and innovation was being devoted to the Davis Cup alone.
Secret Service | Simon Briggs' new weekly column
Next year, the Fed Cup’s two World Groups will be united into a single 16-team group, with the winner being decided at a “Final Four” event staged by one of the semi-finalists. Unlike the Davis Cup proposals – which will have to win a two-thirds majority at August’s Annual General Meeting of the ITF if they are to go through – these changes have such broad support, according to Haggerty, that they can be approved by an executive vote at board level.
If all goes to plan – and that is a big “if”, when you consider tennis’s many political factions – then the Kosmos revamp of the Davis Cup would also begin next year. And then, in 2020, the Fed Cup would receive a similar redevelopment.
“We’re all for equality,” said Haggerty. “The Davis Cup reform is a very big project. We’re looking to get it set up from next year and then we will try to take the Fed Cup in the same direction.”
Haggerty also confirmed that the ITF are in regular conversation with executives at the Association of Tennis Professionals over the future calendar of the sport. A possible conflict between two rival team competitions could develop if the ATP decide to launch their proposed World Team Cup in Australia in 2020, only six weeks or so after Kosmos’s new-look World Cup of Tennis concept.
The ATP president Chris Kermode took a strong position on this issue on Tuesday, in an interview with the BBC. “"It doesn't make any sense to have two team events,” Kermode said. “Personally I think that would be insane. Let's just hope that doesn't happen. We have had very, very good talks [between the ATP and the ITF].”
If the ATP come onside – and there is still plenty of negotiating to do – then it’s possible that the whole tennis schedule could be squeezed forward by a week to offset the extra workload of a major event in late November. But we are talking ideal solutions here, which is something tennis – with its multifarious governing bodies – has rarely been able to offer.
Finally, Haggerty told the Telegraph that a European venue for the November finals is now a possibility, rather than the Asian or middle-eastern location that Kosmos and their famous frontman – Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique – had originally suggested.
“It would be easier for the players to stay in Europe, with the way the end of the season is set up,” Haggerty said. “Although things might change if the ATP World Tour Finals were to move away from London after 2020.”