By Martyn Herman
MADRID (Reuters) – Gerard Pique believes the clash between the revamped Davis Cup Finals and the rival ATP Cup could be solved by creating a ‘super event’ held over a fortnight in September.
Pique, the Barcelona defender more used to dealing with opposition strikers than tennis politics, has been a key figure in changes to the Davis Cup through his investment company Kosmos, which has pledged $3 billion over 25 years.
The inaugural 18-nation edition in Madrid’s La Caja Magica, where it will also be staged next year, has been a qualified success despite some ties struggling to attract crowds and a schedule that has resulted in a run of extremely late finishes.
The elephant in the room, however, has been the new-fangled ATP Cup starting in six weeks, which will involve 24 nations playing over three Australian cities just before the start of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Pique, who played in Barcelona’s 2-1 La Liga win away at Leganes on Saturday, before making the short trip to the capital to watch Spain beat Britain in a thrilling Davis Cup semi-final, acknowledges that having two similar events so close to each other in the calendar is not viable.
He said he hoped a change in leadership at the ATP, where Italian Andrea Gaudenzi will replace Chris Kermode as chairman, will help break the impasse.
“In the last year, we’ve tried to sit down with the ATP, obviously the situation with the former president wasn’t ideal to sit down and try to arrive to a deal,” Pique, sitting alongside ITF president David Haggerty, said at a news conference on Sunday at La Caja Magica.
“Now there will be some changes, so we are expecting that so we can sit down again. I think that in the future, ITF and Kosmos, we are really open to sit down with the ATP and try to arrive to a deal, to make a unique competition, a super event of two weeks and try to find the best part in the calendar.
“I think Novak (Djokovic) and Rafa (Nadal), the number one and two in the world right now, have expressed that they want the same, they want just one event, and if it’s possible, to put it in September for two weeks. Since day one, we expressed we want to arrive to this deal.
“It makes no sense to have right now two different competitions that are very similar.”
The obstacle to Kosmos and the ITF having their wish is the Laver Cup competition, played in September and partly owned by Roger Federer’s management company Team8 and Tennis Australia, which has been officially sanctioned by the ATP.
Twenty-times Grand Slam champion Federer has criticized Pique’s involvement in the Davis Cup and has proven himself an astute businessman, who will fight to secure his pet project.
“They have, or he has the Laver Cup and, obviously, it’s his baby, his competition, and he wants to protect it and obviously to create as big as possible this exhibition.
“I totally understand. But we will try to put Davis Cup in another level because we are talking about 119 years of history.
“You cannot compare both events. But we will try to do the best we can for our competition to make it as big as possible.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)