Davis Cup reform: Analysis of ITF and Gerard Pique's grand plans after proposal gets voted through

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A complete overhaul of the Davis Cup is set to take place next year after a proposal was voted through on Thursday by the ITF.

The new Davis Cup will see a change in format and scheduling, resulting in a one-week World Cup-like event played at a neutral venue at the end of November, starting with the 2019 season. There will still be 12 home ties contested during the qualifying stage in February but the inaugural Davis Cup finals will be held in either Madrid or Lille.

ITF president David Haggerty believes this vote has “secured the long-term status of Davis Cup” but the decision is being met by mixed reaction from players and federations.

The new deal was put together by the investment group Kosmos, founded by Barcelona and Spain footballer Gerard Pique and backed by Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman of Japanese electrical giant Rakuten. American billionaire Larry Ellison, who owns the Indian Wells tournament, has also pledged his financial support.

With so many layers and elements to this new, radical, transformation of Davis Cup, tennis writer Reem Abulleil sat down with New York Times contributor and acclaimed tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg, who had been following the story closely and was in Orlando reporting on all the happenings of the ITF’s annual general meeting where the proposal was voted upon.

In part one of the discussion, Rothenberg gives us insight into what happened in Orlando, and whether the passing of the proposal took him by surprise.

The new Davis Cup is scheduled to take place from November 18-24, 2019 following the ATP Finals, with the qualifying round taking place in February.

Part two of the chat looks at the scheduled dates for the competition and whether players would be willing to extend their already problematically long seasons.Will a top-eight player finish playing the ATP Finals in London then have enough in the tank to go play a week-long Davis Cup tournament?

“That’s a big question. It’s almost not even about the London players, I think it’s more about the Bercy players. Because the London players will have at least kept playing. For Bercy, because there’s still a week off between Bercy and London, so you’ll have to wait two weeks and then play again, already deep into your offseason,” said Rothenberg.

“Sascha Zverev said he wants to be in the Maldives at that time. The amount of time they have off is short. Counter-argument which ITF would make to that, will be that you’re giving them two weeks off more in the middle of the year, you’re lessening the load in the middle and hopefully they have a little bit more saved up for the end.”

Part three of the discussion looks at the $3bn investment: Who benefits the most from this money? Are the rich federations only looking at this from one side and not realising the overall good that can come from this new Davis Cup?

“People say money, oh like it’s corruption, but money is not automatically corruption. A lot of countries – even countries like Brazil, the Brazilian federation head told me they were losing money hosting Davis Cup ties. The amount of money it took to put together a tie, they were not making back, in TV or ticket sales,” explained Rothenberg.

Part four looks at the strong opposition to this new format and whether it is all justified. Rothenberg also discusses how Davis Cup ended up being in this position and how the lack of change during the previous ITF regime damaged the competition.

Finally, we hear from Pique and his reaction after the vote in Orlando.

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