The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has followed through on its pledge to implement similar reform plans for its Fed Cup tournament as those introduced for the Davis Cup, while Budapest has sealed a three-year contract to stage the finals of the new-look women’s national team event.
The ITF today (Thursday) announced a new ‘World Cup of Tennis’ format for the Fed Cup, including the launch of the 2020 Finals in the Hungarian capital from April 14-19 next year. The Finals will be staged at the Laszlo Papp Budapest Sports Arena on clay on two match courts for three years through to 2022. This means that this year’s final between Australia and France in Perth will be the last staged on ‘home’ ground.
The new Fed Cup format will see an increase from eight to 20 nations competing each year to become world champions, with 12 nations qualifying for the Fed Cup Finals where they will compete for a total prize fund of $18m (€15.8m), with $12m going to players and the remainder to national associations.
Sixteen nations will compete in the 2020 Fed Cup Qualifiers on February 7-8 on a home-and-away basis over five matches to earn one of eight places in the Finals, where they will join the previous year’s finalists, Australia and France, host nation Hungary and one wild card nation to be confirmed.
The Finals will feature a round-robin format with four groups of three teams, followed by knock-out semi-finals and final. The top two nations will be guaranteed a place in the following year’s Finals, while the nations finishing third to 10th will contest the following year’s Qualifiers. All matches will consist of two singles and one doubles.
The new format was approved by the ITF Board following an extensive review and consultation process with national associations, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and WTA Player Council. The ITF said the format respects the existing women’s tennis calendar by reducing Fed Cup to two weeks of competition in existing Fed Cup weeks. The Federation added that the changes support player health through the extension of the off season by moving the Finals from November to April.
There will be no change to the format of the regional group events, which will continue to consist of week-long round-robin tournaments. With the expansion of the elite level of the competition, the number of nations qualifying from the regional Group I events for the Fed Cup Play-offs has doubled from four to eight. These nations will face the eight losing nations from the Fed Cup Qualifiers to earn a place in the following year’s Qualifiers.
Under the stewardship of president David Haggerty, the ITF has introduced a substantial overhaul of the men’s Davis Cup. In August 2018, member nations of the ITF voted in favour of a major reform package for the national team tournament.
The ITF has since maintained that the Fed Cup will not be left behind and Haggerty this month pledged to follow through on plans to revamp the competition as part of his manifesto for re-election as president.
Haggerty said today: “The launch of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals will create a festival of tennis that elevates this flagship women’s team competition to a new level, yet remains loyal to the historic core of the Fed Cup.
“We pledged to our national associations during the 2018 AGM that we would introduce reforms that will grow the competition’s global audience and enable greater investment into the future of the sport. We believe this bold new Fed Cup format delivers this pledge.”
Commenting on the award of the Finals contract, Balázs Fürjes, Hungarian Secretary of State of Budapest’s Development and International Sports Events, said: “The announcement of Budapest as host for the new Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals is the jewel in the crown of the city’s global tennis ambitions and underlines our status as one of the prime global capitals of sport.”
The increased prize money for Fed Cup starting in 2020 will include an additional $4.9m for nations competing below the elite level of the competition.