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Davis revamp can raise Asia's game

By Xinhua in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-10 09:16

Plans to revamp the Davis Cup could have big implications for tennis in China, according to the sport's global chief.

The International Tennis Federation wants to turn the 117-year-old tournament into a year-end showdown - renamed the World Cup of Tennis Finals - that would see 18 national teams compete in one location over seven days in November.

On Wednesday, American billionaire Larry Ellison, who owns the Indian Wells tennis venue in California, threw his weight behind the proposals, which were devised by Kosmos, a company owned by Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique and which has pledged to pump $3 billion into the tournament over 25 years.

ITF president David Haggerty said all these changes could be massively significant for the sport's development in China.

"The Davis Cup will be very important for China. If the World Group (which currently features the top 16 teams) expands, it will give China the opportunity to compete. And one day the Davis Cup final could be hosted in China."

In addition to a bigger prize pool of $20 million per tournament, the proposals would generate $25 million to develop tennis.

"New money will be invested in junior tournaments and coaching in nations like China. We will make sure all nations develop tennis for future generations," Haggerty added.

China currently competes in the Asia/Oceania Zone of Group I and has never featured in the top-tier World Group.

The ITF's 200 member associations will vote on the reforms on Aug 16, needing a two-thirds majority to get the green light.

Haggerty is confident he can count on the Chinese Tennis Association's vote.

"We had a meeting with 40 associations at Roland Garros, and at Wimbledon we met with another 42. We have strong support. We have support from China, a big nation and an important tennis nation for us," he said.

Haggerty noted that other top tennis nations, including France, Spain and the United States, have also publicly backed the reforms, although there has been sharp criticism of the changes from the German association.

Top players like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have lent their backing, and all Grand Slam tournaments except the Australian Open have officially declared their full support. Haggerty envisages the Davis Cup becoming a "big festival" also featuring music and entertainment and will eventually be considered the fifth most important tennis tournament in the world behind the four Grand Slams. "We will elevate the great event to make it even better," he said.

"This reform will be good for the nations, for broadcasters, for the fans and for sponsors. So we believe it will be passed. I am confident, absolutely."

The ITF also intends to shake up the tennis competition at the Olympics.

"In the future, you will need to play in the Davis Cup in order to qualify for the Olympic Games. So I believe the Davis Cup and Olympic Games will be linked together. As the Davis Cup becomes stronger, the Olympic Games will become stronger, and vice versa," Haggerty said.

Speaking of the Olympics, he said tennis is indebted to the 2008 Beijing Games, specifically Nadal's epic victory in the men's singles final and Swiss pair Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka's triumph in men's doubles.

"Even today Nadal and Federer are still the top two players in the world," Haggerty said.

"So it was great and I think it also inspired sport in China, and it inspired tennis for sure. I think that tennis has grown in participation and interest because of the Olympic Games and the legacy it left behind."

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