AAP Tennis

ATP Cup could spell the end for Davis Cup

By AAP Newswire

It is steeped in 120 years of history and prestige, but Australian tennis greats are unsure what the future holds for Davis Cup after welcoming the introduction of the ATP Cup as the sport's new showpiece teams' event to kick off the summer down under.

Boasting every member of the world's top 10 and offering significant rankings points and $US15 million in prize money, the inaugural ATP Cup has won over Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and former skippers Pat Rafter and John Newcombe.

"This is a great event to be a part of," Hewitt said at the official draw in Sydney on Monday.

Few could have imagined Hewitt being so supportive of an alternative event in January when he fiercely opposed the radical changes to the Davis Cup format that will come into full effect in November.

For the first time in more than a century, the Davis Cup - having shifted from the traditional home-and-away format for all rounds - will climax with an 18-team finals in Madrid from November 18-24.

The first ATP Cup, to be staged from January 3-12 in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, will take place barely six weeks later.

Asked by AAP if he thought both the Davis Cup could co-exist with the ATP Cup, Rafter said: "It's interesting isn't it. There's quite a few events going on now that are competing with Davis Cup, so Davis Cup's going to have its issues.

"Is there too many events going on for it to work? I don't know.

"But, at this stage, it (the ATP Cup) looks good on paper, doesn't it?"

In addition to the ATP and Tennis Australia, it's been tennis's biggest stars - including world No.1 Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer - driving the introduction of the ATP Cup.

Somewhat sadly, Djokovic and especially Federer have been glaring absentees from the Serbian and and Swiss Davis Cup teams in recent years, having previously devoted most of their careers trying to win the competition.

Having ticked off Davis Cup from their bucket lists, it's now no longer a priority on their programs.

But the ATP Cup apparently is.

In a masterstroke from organisers, Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal will all open their 2020 seasons in different parts of Australia, ensuring maximum exposure across the country.

Federer's Switzerland outfit will be in Sydney for the group stages of the ATP Cup, with Djokovic's Serbia in Brisbane and Nadal's Spain side in Perth.

Rafter is convinced crowds in all cities involved will get behind the ATP Cup, as Perth did with the now-defunct Hopman Cup and likewise Brisbane with the Brisbane International.

"Every city there, that are hosting this event, they've got a whole group, at least six personalities there so it's going to work," Rafter said.

"All the players playing it, that's what's going to make the event. If the players don't play, it won't work.

"But it does work because it's a lead-in to the Aussie Open and they've also given them a week break - a lot of players don't like to play the week before.

"So the way these guys are positioned with the week off, and to get the players down here, you have enough prize money and you have the venues and the same conditions (as the Australian Open), it's a no brainer (it will be successful)."