Roger Federer welcomes introduction of ATP Cup and team events

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Roger Federer believes it’s too soon to pass a verdict on the introduction of the new ATP Cup as well as the revamped Davis Cup but is pleased that team competitions are popping up on the tennis calendar.

The Swiss, whose company Team8 launched another team event, the Laver Cup, last year, was speaking after booking himself a ticket to the semis of the ATP Finals, topping his group with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kevin Anderson on Thursday.

The ATP Cup was unveiled at the O2 Arena on Thursday, and will be staged in January 2020 across three Australian cities. The revamped Davis Cup will be held in Madrid in November 2019. Both events will follow a similar World Cup-like format.

“Well, we haven’t seen the new Davis Cup yet. We haven’t seen a new World Team Cup yet, which used to exist in Dusseldorf, which now is in Australia,” said Federer, who is into the semis of the ATP Finals for the 15th time in 16 appearances.

“I think we have to wait and see how it is. It’s so nice that we have so many highlights, so many tournaments to choose from. Clearly if the World Team Cup is going to be held, players will want to play that first week of the year, so you would think it’s going to be exciting.

“The Davis Cup has incredibly rich history. You would think the players are going to play that. From that standpoint, I think there’s not that much change, per se, or more tournaments on the calendar. It just happens that there’s more team events, which I think the players are happy about.”

Federer referred to the IPTL, a team exhibition league that took place for three years before it folded for financial reasons, as an example of how successful and attractive team competitions can be.

“If you make it in a team format, it can be fun. Players enjoy being with somebody else than just fighting for yourself. I see it in their eyes. I remember at the IPTL, talking to the women players, they were like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so much fun for three weeks. Be on a team, support one another on a team, practice with one another, be with one another’,” said the 37-year-old.

“You forget how, I don’t want to say it’s lonely as a tennis player sometimes, but when you win sometimes like tonight, game, set, match, Federer, you fist pump, look at your team, I’m happy, but you’re on your own.

“Team events, like Davis Cup, Hopman Cup, Laver Cup, you’re playing for somebody else, something else, a country, a region, whatever it may be. I think that makes the player quite happy and gives a different feel that it can actually also fuel you for other ATP events or other just tournaments.

“We’ve seen that the energy that some players brought at the Laver Cup, we’ve seen the emotions in Davis Cup, which we’ll see also in the World Team Cup in the future. I see the point. We don’t know yet. As we don’t know yet, let’s wait and see what happens.”

The ITF and ATP are at odds regarding their competing tournaments while players continue to complain about the length of the tennis season and how physically and mentally taxing it is.

Djokovic said on Wednesday in London that the tour should focus more on quality rather than quantity when it comes to its structure and calendar, while 21-year-old Alexander Zverev reiterated his discontent at the length of the season.

“I haven’t felt my best in, like, two months, to be honest,” said Zverev at the O2. “The issue is that our season is way too long. That’s the issue. But I’ve said it before. We play for 11 months a year. That’s ridiculous. No other professional sport does that.”

But not every player is taking the same stance as the German youngster.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, known for playing heavy schedules, admits the offseason is short but is not complaining.

“We have basically a never ending season, I would say. Now I will go one week holidays, then I spend few days at home, then… I think the most important period of the season is starting, the offseason, the only time where we have time to practice and to really improve all the stuff what we need to work for. That’s how it is in tennis,” said Thiem, who defeated Kei Nishikori on Thursday for his first win of the week but was eliminated from the ATP Finals as Federer and Anderson advanced from the group.

“I think we cannot complain about it because we have a very nice life with that. The only thing which would be better if the year would have 13 months.”

Federer feels it is up to the player to pick and choose the tournaments and schedule they see fit and sees no harm in adding new events and giving players more options to compete if they want to.

“As a team, player and team, you decide which are your priorities and how much can a body take, how much can a mind take, how much travel can someone endure,” said Federer, who hasn’t played the clay swing for the past two seasons.

“The good thing is we as players are not employed by a club. I can walk right now out of the door and go onto vacation if I want to. Nobody is going to stop me. They won’t like it, but I can. That’s a massive privilege, I believe, that a tennis player has. I think we’ve done a nice job from a player standpoint to understand it’s not something we do, out of respect to the fans, the tournament organizers, the sponsors and so forth, and also just for the integrity of the game.

“There’s two ways to look at it. One, it’s nice that there’s so many tournaments. When you get injured, not like skiing, you’re going to miss the entire season.

“The other way, it would be amazing to have five months to work on your game. You could really maximise the player you are, the potential you have. Obviously with the little time we have, there’s only so much you can do. Both are positive and negative. But the way the tour is structured right now, I just think you have to be very disciplined within the team to decide what’s best for that player, and the player needs to also give his opinion. It’s a tricky one, but a good one because we have a lot of highlights in tennis that we really can’t complain.”

Federer is now two wins away from a 100th career title, and a first ATP Finals trophy since 2011. He isn’t looking that far ahead just yet though as he waits to learn the identity of his semi-final opponent.

“Personally I’m still not thinking of the number 100. I won’t let that get in my head, make me go crazy because it should be something I’m excited about and not something I should feel extra pressure. As long as I think Novak is in the draw anyhow, he’s playing so good again, it’s never going to be easy,” said Federer.

“My next opponent, I don’t know who it’s going to be, I think it could even be Novak, but I doubt it’s going to be. I think it’s just going to be hard to finish it. I’m happy I gave myself the opportunity. I’m happy that I’m raising my level of play throughout this week. This is what I hope to do. Yeah, it’s exciting to be in this situation now, of course, no doubt.”

Djokovic, who has already qualified for the semis, faces Marin Cilic on Friday night in the closing group stage match of the tournament, while John Isner takes on Zverev earlier in the day. Djokovic will qualify as top of the group in any scenario except if Cilic defeats him and Isner beats Zverev.

If Djokovic tops his group, then he avoid a semi-final against Federer, and would take on Anderson in the last-four on Saturday.

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