MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt says the success of the inaugural ATP Cup in January has put the International Tennis Federation (ITF) under pressure over its revamped Davis Cup.
The team-based ATP Cup, organised by the men’s tour and Tennis Australia, was staged six weeks after the week-long Davis Cup finals in Madrid in November and earned rave reviews from players and fans alike.
“I think that the ITF’s under a lot of pressure though, purely with how strong the ATP Cup performed as well and that format and the crowds,” Australia’s Davis Cup captain Hewitt told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“I might be biased but the crowds in Australia across the board with every single country that played was pretty amazing.
“It was a great spectacle, not only live but I think it came across unbelievably well on TV.”
The revamped Davis Cup was bankrolled by a multi-billion dollar, 25-year partnership with Kosmos, the Barcelona-based investment company owned by soccer player Gerard Pique.
The demise of the World Group, introduced in 1981 with home and away ties played on three separate weekends and culminating in a November final, in favor of a week-long, 18-nation event, was regarded as sacrilege by many in the tennis community.
The inaugural finals had a number of teething problems, with some matches drawing only a smattering of fans and others spilling over into the early hours of the morning due to scheduling logjams.
Leading players have questioned the need to retain both men’s team competitions on the calendar.
ITF President David Haggerty told Reuters this month that tennis chiefs were committed to merging the tournaments into a single men’s world team event and that concrete plans could be in place by June.
However, twice Grand Slam champion Hewitt, who has been critical of the new Davis Cup format, said he could not see that happening.
“I’m not sure if they’ll merge though, to be honest. It’s been pretty hard to deal with the ITF for 25 years so I’m not sure it’s going to change overnight now,” added the 38-year-old.
Australia, which holds 28 Davis Cup titles, second only to the United States’ 32, remains committed to the tournament and will play Brazil in the qualifying phase on March 6-7.
Hewitt named Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur in his team to play the Brazilians.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)