MADRID (Reuters) - The focus of the new-look Davis Cup should be about teams and not individuals, Gerard Pique said on Wednesday, brushing aside concerns that top names such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will not want to participate in next year’s competition.
Twenty-times Grand Slam champion Federer has said that he is unlikely to play in the new-look tournament, spearheaded by Barcelona player Pique’s investment group Kosmos and, speaking in August, he questioned why the Spain defender was “meddling” in the tennis calendar.
Changes to the Davis Cup format will see the 118-year-old competition turned into a week-long event taking place in November, with the first two editions happening in Madrid in 2019 and 2020.
“We want to focus on teams not individuals, on players representing their nation and their federation and on building the best teams possible,” Pique said at the competition’s presentation in Madrid on Wednesday.
“We want the focus on the competition to be the teams, which is what it always has been. The Davis Cup has survived for 118 years because of the national teams, and because individual players haven’t been so important.”
World number two Djokovic has said he would “prioritize” playing in the ATP’s World Team Cup, set to take place in January 2020.
Djokovic has also joined players such as Alexander Zverev in criticizing the timing of the new Davis Cup, which comes at the end of an already congested schedule and when most players rest in preparation for the new season.
“Novak is very important as he is the president of the ATP players’ council, he is the link to all of tennis,” said Pique.
“I’m positive about him, we are on the same page although we need to keep talking so we can understand each other better.”
Founded in 1900, the Davis Cup has suffered in recent years because so many top players have opted out of the competition’s three-day ties during the season.
In the current format, 16 World Group nations take part in a knockout competition over three weekends in February, April and September before the final in November.
Ties are hosted by one or other of the competing nations, producing a partisan atmosphere which has become a popular feature of the Davis Cup.
The new format will feature 18 teams, the four 2018 semi-finalists, two wildcards, confirmed as Britain and Argentina for 2019, and 12 nations who win qualifying rounds set to take place in February.
Pique said his project had the backing of 17-times Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal and that while he would welcome Federer’s participation it was not necessary for the event to be a success.
“I’ve spoken to all the players, Rafa has been very positive and now it will be in Madrid he likes it even more, he has told me if he is fit he will come,” Pique added.
“But if it had been this year Rafa wouldn’t have been able as he was injured. There are lots of games and events and players go to the limit so you never know if a player will be available or not.”
Pique described Federer as “atypical”.
“For many he is the best of all time but in respect to the Davis Cup he hasn’t played it very much. If he wants to play that will be fantastic, we’ll open the door to him,” he said.
“If not, that’s fine. It will never be perfect. Because of his age he tends to prioritize emblematic tournaments, but his people haven’t closed the door. Also, Switzerland may not qualify.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.