NEW YORK, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The World Team Cup, a men’s event offering high prize money and ranking points, could begin as soon as January 2019, sources have said following meetings between tennis stake holders in New York this week.
According to two sources familiar with the discussions, there are plans to hold it over 10 days at the start of each year.
The event would include a maximum 24 nations of up to five players per team, with as many as 1000 ATP Tour ranking points on offer to players who win all their matches.
The competition could be held in multiple cities, most likely in Australia and the Asia Pacific region, forming an integral part of the build-up to the Australian Open, which begins in mid-January.
The new event, which was discussed by stake holders including the four grand slam tournaments, the ATP and the International Tennis Federation (ITF), would represent a major shake-up in the tennis calendar.
With most leading players traditionally choosing to use the week before a grand slam event to practise, rather than compete in a regular Tour event, it is most likely to be played in the first week of January, the sources said.
That slot in the calendar is presently occupied by the Brisbane International and the Hopman Cup, a mixed team event sanctioned by the ITF, which is held in Perth.
Britain’s Andy Murray, the world number two, has been one of the most vocal supporters of the proposed event, which was first mooted in May when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic openly discussed the plans.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Brisbane International said Murray “plans to start his next three years in Australia as part of a long-term partnership with Tennis Australia to help promote the sport”.
Tennis Australia, which has invested heavily in the sport in recent years, including a state of the art facility in Brisbane, is backing the World Team Cup plans.
“The protection and growth of the Australian Open and Australian Open Series is always a major priority for us,” it said in a statement.
“We also have an ongoing determination to improve the pay and conditions of the international playing group. We will always listen to any proposal that meets both of those objectives.”
The new event may yet cause a headache for the ITF, which runs the Davis Cup and Fed Cup team events in an already crowded calendar.
Spain’s Nadal and Serbia’s Djokovic, in particular, have been critical of the ITF for failing to adapt the Davis Cup to the demands of the modern player.
Both have skipped Davis Cup matches in recent years, as have Murray, Switzerland’s Roger Federer and most leading players.
The ITF wanted to reduce Davis Cup ties from best-of-five sets to best-of-three to ease the strain on players and encourage the biggest names to play.
The proposals were rejected by its members in August, but the ITF is still considering a number of changes, including playing the semi-finals and final at a neutral venue, though a vote on this has been deferred until at least 2018.
An ITF spokesman said on Thursday: “The ITF’s focus is not on what other bodies are trying to do, but in successfully delivering Davis Cup as the World Cup of Tennis to millions of fans in over 120 nations each year.”
The original World Team Cup began in 1975 and was held in Duesseldorf from 1978 to 2012 but did not offer ranking points and suffered from being on the calendar just a week before the French Open.
In a statement, the ATP said: “The ATP World Team Cup is an event that last took place in 2012, having been successfully staged in Duesseldorf, Germany, since 1978.
“In recent years, the ATP has regularly reviewed any potential opportunities to bring this event back into the calendar, should it make sense in the schedule, and this continues to be the case.”
Editing by Toby Davis