(Reuters) - Gerard Pique hopes players and fans have “the week of their lives” when a radically changed Davis Cup takes place in Madrid’s La Caja Majica next week.
The Barcelona defender’s investment company Kosmos has teamed up with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), providing the financial muscle to revamp the 119-year-old tennis team competition.
Instead of two nations playing off on home soil, 18 nations will gather in Madrid for a week-long competition battling to reach next Sunday’s final.
While traditionalists have questioned the wisdom of largely ditching the old format and Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt even questioned Pique’s involvement, the Spaniard believes the event will win over the skeptics.
“I want them to have the best week of their lives,” the 32-year-old Pique said in the build-up to the event which will start on Monday with a glitzy opening ceremony expected to feature his wife, Colombian singer Shakira.
“I want Davis Cup to be a party around tennis, not just tennis. We have a deal with Sony and there are going to be different artists performing there that will provide other entertainment which is going to help make Davis Cup unique.
“During that week fans will enjoy more than just tennis, and of course we want them to have a great time in Madrid.”
Kosmos are pumping in $3 billion over 25 years — money the ITF say will be vital in developing nations and increase the appeal of the sport to wider audiences.
While Pique accepts criticism of the revamp, he says this year’s Davis Cup will break new ground.
“In terms of the event we needed to convince different people who were maybe skeptical and were against the idea of changing the format,” he said.
“We’ve had to face it since the beginning. This is something I believe we did an amazing job at because we feel people in the game are now more convinced.
“I don’t want to compare ourselves to any other tournament because I think we are unique. In five years’ time I want everyone, players and fans, to think ‘Davis Cup is in November and I want to be there’”.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Prtha Sarkar