Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) seems to have found an answer to ease the gruelling schedule the pros endure, often stretching their bodies to the verge of breakdown — ignore the issue and start a brand new tournament to potentially increase the load further.
The ATP Cup men's team tennis tournament is set to be played in three Australian cities from January 3 to 12, and most of the top 30 players in the world have signed up to represent their countries in the one-week Davis Cup clone. The International Tennis Federation (ITF), keepers of the game [still] and organisers of the Davis Cup, will definitely be miffed — the big ATP stars have always been reluctant to schedule appearances at the Davis Cup, but they seem to be rushing in for the ATP Cup. However, reports say that the two tennis bodies have reached a compromise formula. Wonder what that is! Perhaps, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) thinktank could also plan a tournament of its own, after applying the compromise formula with the Fed Cup organisers.
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The ATP Cup is ready to roll even though its purpose is lost on some players. But they have all signed up, thanks, perhaps, to the ATP points up for grabs in the 24-nation tournament.
The new team championship is officially starting the 2020 men's season, with stars including Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic playing, aiming for a winning start ahead of the Australian Open. The 24 nations in the ATP Cup will be split into six groups, who will play their round-robin games in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Eight teams will qualify for the knockout phase to be played in Sydney.
The ATP knows that it can't package the old game into a new tournament without adding a bit of glitter. And they have taken the best route available for that of late — adding VAR, which will also ensure some controversial talking points for the press and social media. There will be video review system in place courtside to take calls on double bounces, foul shots, touches or invasion. The traditional seats for the players, on either side of the umpire's seat, have been done away with. The teams, instead, will occupy corners of stadiums. They will also have an array of technology and statistics to facilitate coaching on court.
ATP Cup is the third men's team event, alongside the revamped Davis Cup, considered the world championship in tennis, and the annual Laver Cup (Europe vs the World). A $15 million prize purse and the 750 singles and 250 doubles ATP rankings points available for grabs has already got the stars coming out with positive PR bytes ahead of the tournament. Needless to say, no one is talking about fatigue. Roger Federer has opted out to spend some time with family, Kei Nishikori is out with injury, while Andy Murray has decided to give it a miss too.
“More than 90 percent of the time, we're playing as individuals and we don't have too many team events,” Djokovic was quoted by Agence France-Presse.
“This is going to bring together a lot of nations and, for me personally, it will be a very nice and proud moment to represent my country. An event like this is truly going to make an impact,” added the player, who is also the head of the ATP player council
The ever tumultuous Australian star Nick Kyrgios has already described the tournament as an “awesome” event.
“I know everyone on the Tour wants to be with their teammates. There's nothing better than playing for your country against the other best players in the world,” said the World No. 30.
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Denis Shapovalov, a member of Team Canada, who play Greece in their ATP Cup opener on January 3, however, doesn't seem to understand the point of the tournament, which is, in essence, is the same as Davis Cup.
“I think it is a little bit strange to have it at a similar time as Davis Cup,” the World No. 15 was quoted by The New York Times. “It would be great just to have one event that is a world championship. It is a weird feeling playing a world championships then coming into another event that is pretty much the same thing. We will see how it pans out.”
The tournament follows a quickfire, potentially draining format. Each tie will have three matches. The second-ranked singles players from each country face each other, then the top-ranked men, followed by a decisive doubles match, if needed.
Earlier, the men's season used to begin with a host of ATP tournaments Down Under. The ATP Cup has also put the relevance of those tournaments, traditional warm-up to the Australian Open, in doubt, while adding to the volume of matches for the players. The latter will definitely tell during the second half of the Australian Open when things will begin to show in the busy bodies of the players.
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