The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has revealed the next phase of its strategy for overhauling the Davis Cup and Fed Cup team competitions.
Both events – the Davis Cup for men and the Fed Cup for women – are among the most prestigious on the tennis calendar but making changes is a key goal for ITF President David Haggerty who was elected to replace Italy’s Francesco Ricci Bitti in September of last year.
The next phase will include the launch of an open bid process to find host cities for Davis Cup and Fed Cup finals, which are currently hosted by one of the teams participating with little notice.
Another major change could see the Fed Cup expand from eight to 16 teams in the World Group, with the introduction of a “Final Four” event.
A review of match formats used in the Davis Cup will also be carried out – which could see best-of-five set matches scaled back to best-of-three.
Scheduling issues will also be examined with top players often struggling to commit to the team events amid an already packed schedule, while there will be a “full assessment” of current staging options for host cities.
In addition, an “extensive feasibility study”, carried out by the newly created Davis and Fed Cup Taskforce, will look to better support and encourage involvement in both competitions, particularly in emerging tennis nations who play below the top-tier World Groups.
This will further increase “worldwide interest and viewership” in the sport, it is hoped, while the junior Davis and Fed Cups will also be reviewed with the potential introduction of new age-group tournaments.
All of the recommendations will be put to the ITF’s annual general meeting in August of next year, with any changes requiring a formal vote of approval.
“This is an exciting moment in the storied histories of these two much loved competitions,” said Haggerty. “We have enjoyed significant fan interest in both competitions over recent years and remain determined to further grow that passion and support globally. The potential changes outlined today will help these unique international team tennis competitions to grow and prosper.
“A key goal for the ITF and member nations is to introduce a 16-team World Group in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas to ensure more nations from around the world have the opportunity each year to become world champions.
“The introduction of a final four will allow us not only to deliver this vital format change but also to create an even more outstanding year-end conclusion to the competition.
“Davis and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas remain the world’s largest annual team events in sport, they are unmatched in terms of fan passion and excitement but we must continue to enhance and innovate.
“A fixed final for Davis Cup by BNP Paribas will replicate the approach, seen in many other sports, for the tennis season’s finale that players, fans, partners and broadcasters can better plan for.
“Over 130 nations are competing in 2016 and the reform of format at all levels of the competitions will encourage even more nations to take part, while potential changes in playing format will help athlete health and make participation even easier.”
The announcement today has been backed by two former players who sit on the ITF Board, Mary Pierce and Mark Woodforde.
“Playing for France in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas was one of the highlights of my career and I have always followed the competition closely,” said Pierce, who won the Fed Cup twice.
“Since I have been part of the ITF Board, I have heard many nations express their desire to have a 16-team World Group in Fed Cup to give more countries a chance to compete for the title.
“Staging both the semi-finals and final over one week at a fixed venue will ensure even more players, from more nations, get the chance each year to compete for the World Cup of tennis.”
Woodforde, Australia’s doubles specialist who won 18 Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold at Atlanta 1996 with men’s partner Todd Woodbridge, added: “During my playing career, I represented Australia 24 times including three finals, all played away.
“These were incredibly proud moments for me and the team and we were really gratified at the number of Australian fans who traveled to see us compete for the title.
“This is one of the reasons why I think it is important for the future of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas to have a fixed final venue to grow the competition and to give supporters time to plan their trips to see their teams compete.
“One of my roles since retirement has been as a tournament director, so I know how difficult it is to stage a big competition in only a few months.
“Having the time to prepare properly will only enhance the status of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas as one of the most important and unique competitions in sport.
“I support the changes proposed by the ITF for the future of Davis Cup.”
By Dan Palmer
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz