Tennis federation boss defends Davis Cup reforms

by Eric BERNAUDEAU
France won the Davis Cup last year for the first time since 2001

The head of the International Tennis Federation defended his controversial Davis Cup reform bid on Tuesday, vowing the revamped event will bring benefits across the tennis world.

ITF chief David Haggerty's plan, which sees the Davis Cup reduced to a season-ending World Cup of Tennis finals featuring 18 countries, must win approval at the federation's annual general meeting in Orlando, Florida later this month.

The reform bid has opponents, notably with Tennis Australia voicing concerns about transparency and Tennis Europe expressing reservations about a conflict with the ATP's plan to set up a World Team Cup.

In a phone interview with AFP, Haggerty insisted his project will drive tennis's global development for years to come.

"There are many nations, not only in Europe but around the world, that are in favour of the new format, they see the benefit of having a finale on one week with 18 teams together in an iconic place," Haggerty said.

He added that "the reforms will allow the ITF and the federations to do what no other body does, which is to develop the future generation of players".

"The money will go back to the nations," he stressed, noting that no other body, including the ATP, has a global mandate to fund development.

The ITF reform has been boosted by a $3 billion partnership from the investment group Kosmos, founded by Barcelona football star Gerard Pique, as well as the backing of the organisers of Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open.

The ITF says the new format will allow it to raise the hosting standards of the Davis Cup to a Grand Slam level, increase prize money and allow the Davis Cup to attract more top players, in part by reducing the amount of time stars have to commit to the competition.

Currently, the Davis Cup is structured around a 16-nation World Group, contested over four weekends during the year. The remaining countries are then divided into three regional zones.

Asked about the conflict with the ATP's world team event, Haggerty said he was "open to discussion" about potential cooperation between the two projects but underscored that the Davis Cup's unique history could not be matched by a rival event.

"The Davis Cup competition is an historic event, over 100 years, it has a great history and heritage," he said.

Madrid and Lille are "the two leading cities" to host the first edition of the revamped Davis Cup in November of 2019, Haggerty said.

France won the Davis Cup last year for the first time since 2001