LONDON (Reuters) - Tennis must avoid “internal battles” if its growth is to keep pace with other sports, Roger Federer said on Monday in response to news that the ATP was to launch a revamped World Team Cup.
The new event, set to start in Australia in January 2020, has put men’s governing body the ATP on a collision course with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) who earlier this year unveiled plans for a revamped Davis Cup format.
Under the ITF’s plans, which are still to be approved by its Council, an 18-nation World Cup of Tennis will take place in a single city at the end of next year — the biggest shakeup of the Davis Cup since the World Group was established in 1981.
The ITF released a statement on Sunday expressing disappointment that the ATP was going ahead with its own 24-nation event and had ‘missed an opportunity’ to work together for the benefit of the whole of tennis.
Federer confessed he had only just read the details of the announcement when he spoke to media after his first-round victory at Wimbledon on Monday but said tennis could not afford political infighting at a time when soccer’s World Cup was dominating the thoughts of sports fans.
“What tennis needs to do and look at is probably something that works also against other sports, not just the internal battles that we always face with politics on the inside of our sport,” the 36-year-old, who was part of Switzerland’s first-ever Davis Cup winning squad in 2014, told reporters.
“Maybe think more what’s good for our sport to rival big events. World Cup is going on right now in soccer for a month. It just basically takes over.
“I think that’s what needs to be the goal.”
Federer, who has not played in the Davis Cup since 2015, thinks a World Team Cup would be ‘very successful’ but said ideally it should co-exist with the ITF’s plans for a revamped version of its flagship event.
“What is going to happen with the Davis Cup and the ITF, how are they going to react to all of this?,” 20-times Grand Slam champion Federer said. “Maybe this is going to lead to something extraordinary in the future. Maybe not in five years, maybe in 20 years. There’s always a process to everything.”
The ATP is reviving an enhanced World Team Cup after it disappeared in 2012. Chris Kermode, the ATP’s Executive Chairman & President says the event, boasting a $15 million prize pool, would have a minimal impact on existing player schedules.
While many question whether two team events could survive in a crowded calendar, former world number one and Swedish Davis Cup winner Mats Wilander thinks the ATP’s plan is ‘brilliant’.
Speaking to Reuters at Wimbledon, where he is presenting Eurosport’s ‘Game, Schett and Mats’ show, he said: “I think that having a World Team Cup can enhance the Davis Cup, it will not hurt it. We always had a World Team Cup and it didn’t take away from Davis Cup at all.
“I think it’s great, it generates interest. The best players in the world will play the World Team Cup because it’s only week. That’s what we want.”
The ITF says 24 home-and-away ties would be played in the Davis Cup in February to determine which 12 nations go to the finals to join this year’s four semi-finalists and two invitees.
Wilander said losing the home atmosphere for quarter-finals and semi-finals is a mistake.
“I think it’s ridiculous what they have done to the Davis Cup. To take away a home match for Belgium for example in the semi-finals of Davis Cup is crazy,” he said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar