LONDON (Reuters) – The 2021 Davis Cup Finals will be held over 11 days rather than seven and will almost certainly be staged across three cities, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) confirmed on Monday.
The changes proposed by the ITF’s event partner Kosmos Tennis, the Spanish-based investment firm who are pumping in $3 billion over 25 years, were agreed by the ITF Board.
This year’s event is scheduled for Nov 25-Dec 5.
The ITF confirmed that two more European cities are being sought to share the staging of the 2021 Finals with Madrid which hosted the first edition of the revamped competition in 2019.
Another change is to have the Finals trimmed from 18 to 16 teams from 2022.
“We want to make it better for the players, better for the fans and better for the teams,” Kris Dent, ITF Senior Executive Director, Professional Tennis, told Reuters.
“People love the idea of the best teams in the world coming together for one event, but seven days, especially the day after the ATP Finals, it’s just not possible so these changes we think will make a great competition even greater.”
The 121-year-old men’s team event underwent a major revamp in 2019 with the season-long home and away tie format replaced by a soccer World Cup-type format with the top 18 nations battling for the title at Madrid’s Caja Magica in November.
While there was praise for the new event which ended with Rafa Nadal leading Spain to victory over Canada in the final, the logistics of playing 25 ties, each consisting of two singles and a doubles, on three courts in seven days was challenging.
One tie between the United States and Italy ended at 4am, local time.
“We believe we did a great event in 2019 but for sure there were things to improve, like the scheduling and the attendances in the stands,” Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Albert Costa told Reuters.
“With the new format and the new project we have now I believe we will solve all those problems. Eleven days is better for the players because you can’t play five ties in seven days.”
A 10-week bidding process opened on Monday for European cities keen to join Madrid in hosting the 2021 Finals.
Turin, the new host of the ATP Finals, would be a logical option while London is another potential co-host.
The two additional cities would each host two group stages and one quarter-final each, with Madrid hosting two group stages, two quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final.
“Players we have spoken to over the last few days alone have shown real excitement at being able to add another couple of cities, making it even more a World Cup of tennis,” Dent said.
“We’re quietly confident we will get a good show of interest.”
A final decision is expected by March based on the hosting and COVID-19 contingency proposals received from bidders.
Last year’s event was postponed because of the pandemic.
Costa believes three cities would enable more ‘home’ fans — a traditional aspect of the Davis Cup.
“Three host nations means a wider audience and more fans will be able to see their players at home and that’s something that players like and fans like,” the Spaniard said.
The reduction to 16 nations for the Finals from 2022 would also make for a ‘cleaner’ format, says Costa, with four groups of four and the top two progressing to the quarter-finals.
Twelve of the 16 nations would come through the qualifying ties held earlier in the year, with two ITF wildcards and the winners and runners-up from the 2021 event.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Christian Radnedge)