SYDNEY (Reuters) - One thing is certain after the formal announcement of the ATP Cup team event in London on Thursday, the Australian summer of tennis will never look the same again after the inaugural edition in January 2020.
The new $15 million tournament will take place in three cities across the country over 10 days in the lead-up to the 2020 Australian Open, raising questions over the future of the existing warm-up events in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.
Craig Tiley, chief executive of Tennis Australia, was co-host of the news conference announcing the 24-team ATP Cup in London on Thursday and conceded some tournaments might disappear.
“We’ve got cities that may want to maintain some of the events that they do or have an opportunity to be part of this,” he told reporters.
“We’ll make the right choices and the right cities and some of the events will be replaced but that’s still to be determined.”
The Hopman Cup mixed team event, which has taken place in Perth every January since 1989 and attracted more than 20 world number ones, looks like being the most vulnerable.
Tennis Australia is contracted to host the tournament until 2022 and are on the record as having said they “planned to honour” that agreement with the local government in Western Australia.
If local officials decide that a taste of the ATP Cup will satisfy their desire for top class international tennis, though, the Hopman Cup could sign off for good after Roger Federer and Serena Williams headline the 30th edition in 2019.
The other tournaments at risk are the Brisbane and Sydney Internationals, which are run by Tennis Australia as part of the “Australian Open series” and include both ATP and WTA events.
The Brisbane event attracts strong fields every January, but the Sydney event, with a history dating back to 1885, has struggled for profile in recent years given its position in the week immediately before the Australian Open.
Both events could, of course, still hope to attract top women players looking to acclimatise in Australia for the year’s first grand slam and both cities are almost certain to play host to at least part of the ATP Cup.
Tom Larner, Chief Operations Officer at Tennis Australia, said an “expressions of interest process” was already underway with cities around the country.
“We... will be looking to finalise that as soon as is practicably possible,” he said.
“A wide range of factors are considered in the venue selection process including facilities, event support and player comfort.”
The ATP Cup is seen as a threat to the International Tennis Federation (ITF)’s revamped Davis Cup, which is scheduled to get underway in Madrid in November next year.
Men’s tour chief Chris Kermode denied the ATP Cup was a “land grab” and Federer, who partnered with Tennis Australia and others to launch the Laver Cup team event last year, said players enjoyed representing something other than themselves.
“(In a) team, like Davis Cup, Hopman Cup, Laver Cup, you’re playing for somebody else, something else, a country, a region, whatever it may be,” the Swiss great told reporters after his match at the ATP Finals on Thursday.
“I think that makes the player quite happy and gives a different feel that it can actually also fuel you for other ATP events or other just tournaments.”
Additional reporting by Martyn Herman in London; Editing by John O'Brien