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Sport

Tennis "World Cup" approved by leading players

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The ATP Players Council has proposed the scheduling of a tennis ‘world cup’ to provide a less rigorous international competition than the current Davis Cup, Serbian world number three Novak Djokovic said on Wednesday.

Djokovic, an elected member of the Players Council along with world number one Roger Federer and second-ranked Rafael Nadal, said the group would raise the concept with officials and stakeholders as one of a raft of ideas to invigorate the game and shorten a season many players believe is too taxing.

“Well, we proposed it,” Djokovic told reporters. “But as I said, you know, it’s all very fresh and it’s all ideas.

“We didn’t decide to put anything on official terms because we have to consider other sides as well, you know. But the main point is that we are trying to make the sport improve and get better, and players are most important.”

Djokovic would not be drawn on details of the format but a British newspaper said the plan was the brainchild of a Melbourne-based sports marketing group and had been presented to the ATP and tennis officials in Britain, the U.S. and Australia.

The biennial tournament, branded ‘the Grand Slam of Nations’, would be held over 10 days and involve 32 teams pooled into four groups, with 16 progressing to a knockout stage, the Times said.

Ties would consist of five-set matches and would require at least two players to play in each tie in a sped-up program inspired by the success of Twenty20 cricket.

GREAT FOR TENNIS

Tennis Australia (TA) confirmed it had heard the proposal.

“We think the concept is innovative, refreshing and thoughtfully put together,” Australia Open boss Craig Tiley said.

“Any initiative that will further expose our sport and will grow its participation, particularly in Australia but also worldwide, has to be great for tennis,”

Djokovic said the Players Council would have talks in Australia that would be “crucial” for upcoming years.

“The only thing that I can say is that I’m happy that all the top players are willing to participate in these talks and try to contribute and fight for their own right,” he added.

British world number five Andy Murray was also enthusiastic about the proposal.

“I am a great fan of the Davis Cup, but if a decision was taken to drop it, or something else could change in the calendar, then a World Cup is a fascinating idea,” Murray told the paper.

Other players at warm-up tournaments for the Australian Open had not heard of the proposal but welcomed the idea.

“I think it would be very good, and the commitment to doing something, I guess, every two years,” German world number 18 Tommy Haas said, adding that injuries and the long season had made him skip Davis Cup ties.

“I mean, World Cup, it’s such a fascinating event to follow, and you follow your country.”

Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic said the Davis Cup, which has suffered flagging ratings and is regularly snubbed by the world’s top players, had become outdated.

“It’s because the format is not suited for the players at the moment,” he said.

“Maybe it was perfect 20 or 30 years ago, but not it’s really too much for us... And it’s a shame because I’m 100 percent sure that every player would love to play for his nation.”

Editing by John O’Brien

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