The Davis Cup will never be the same. David Haggerty, president of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), has revealed more details about the massive shake-up of the traditional team event.
It will see the formation of an 18-nation World Cup of Tennis finals played in one location, starting in November 2019.
But at least in the opening stages of the revamped competition ties will continue in front of partisan and raucous fans. Haggerty has confirmed that twelve home and away ties will be played in qualification for the new 18-nation event.
"We are looking at a round of 24 home-and-away ties in February, in the week after the Australian Open, producing 12 winners," Haggerty told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.
"They would then go on to the November tournament, along with the four semi-finalists from the previous year, and two invited teams.
"It's important for the national federations to be able to stage ties. It's a way of promoting the sport and of connecting with fans."
Haggerty's statements seem to have addressed fears that the atmospheric matches played on one side’s home turf were gone forever.
When the new format was first announced in February Belgian tennis chief Gijs Kooken was among the critics, saying that a one-week tournament in a single city would risk "killing the soul" of the historic competition.
France's legendary Davis Cup captain Yannick Noah has called it the end of the Davis Cup.
"Such sadness. They sold the soul of this historic competition.”
France's top player Lucas Pouille even went one step further.
“I think it’s a death sentence of the Davis Cup. When you’re not playing at home, or in the country against who you’re playing, then it’s not a Davis Cup. It’s going to be different, it’s not going to be the same atmosphere any more. I think it’s a very bad idea.”
The latest quotes from Haggerty appear to be a move to appease the faction within tennis that wants to see ties played in front of a home crowd.
Many other players however seem to favour the new format. Back in March Rafael Nadal told Spanish newspaper Marca:
“When something does not work perfectly, we have to look for new solutions and this [Davis Cup debate] has been going on for years. It's a good initiative that can work.”
Haggerty has also revealed that the format for women’s Federation Cup event will be updated in time for 2020.