Sunday 17 November 2019 4:22 pm

It's the Davis Cup, but not as we know it: the lowdown on the 'world cup of tennis' taking place in Madrid

After 118 years of the Davis Cup being played over the duration of the tennis season, this week it is replaced by a new version that is decided over just seven days.

The revamp will some of the world’s best players compete for 18 countries in Madrid in a format designed to equate to a “world cup of tennis”.

The controversial changes to the tournament won approval from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) last year, granting investment company Kosmos, founded by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique, a licence to run the Davis Cup for the next 25 years.

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Kosmos, which is also backed by American billionaire Larry Ellison and Rakuten chief executive Hiroshi Mikitani, has pledged to invest £2.3bn into the competition over the duration of their partnership.

The changes were backed by 71 per cent of the ITF’s 140 members, passing the two-thirds majority required, although Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association was among those to reject the proposals.

The Davis Cup’s organisers are endeavouring to reinvigorate one of tennis’s oldest but ailing tournaments by attempting to reposition it as a grand finale to the season.

Along with Pique, Kosmos is run by chief executive Javier Alonso, the former director general at MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna Sports, and media rights director Alex Soriano, formerly of Barcelona-based Beach Soccer Worldwide.

Alonso says the the trio “are not contaminated by the world of tennis” and so have a “fresh view”.

However, opponents of the new format, which follows straight after the ATP Finals, have questioned its wisdom in an increasingly bloated calendar, as well as the sacrifice of tradition for money.

Other new formats, such as The Hundred in cricket or rugby’s five-a-side Rugby X, currently abound but too have been met with scepticism.

Who’s playing?

Early doubts about the quality of players on show now appear unfounded, however, with six of the world’s top 10 set to participate, including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev is the only eligible player opting not to compete, although Nadal has lingering injury concerns.

A further 14 players ranked between 11 and 30 will also be involved, along with Great Britain’s line-up of Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans.

Gerard PIque
Barcelona and Spain footballer Gerard Pique’s Kosmos investment group is behind the Davis Cup revamp. Credit: Getty

The new Davis Cup will see the 18 countries involved split into six groups of three in a round-robin format, with two singles and a doubles match to be played on the same day.

The group winners and two best second-placed teams will progress to the quarter-finals.

Reigning champions Croatia will kick off the tournament on Monday against Russia in Group B, which also includes Spain.

Great Britain – one of two countries to be handed a wildcard for the event – are in Group E with Holland and Kazakhstan and will play their matches on Wednesday and Thursday.

The competition is set to be broadcast across 171 countries, with Kosmos saying that a number of sessions across the week are now more than 75 per cent sold out, despite earlier concerns about slow ticket sales.

Both Spain and Great Britain’s group stage ties have completely sold out, as has Sunday’s final, while a further 13 sessions are more than 50 per sold out.

Kosmos has cited difficulty selling tickets for morning sessions and a tendency in Spain for tickets to be bought last minute.

Main image credit: Getty