ITF gears up for key vote on Davis Cup masterplan

International Tennis Federation (ITF) president David Haggerty has expressed his confidence that the organisation will receive backing for its ambitious plans to reform the Davis Cup ahead of a key vote on the matter today (Thursday).

The ITF’s member nations will vote on the proposal at its annual general meeting in Orlando, Florida, with a two-thirds majority needed to put a plan that has divided the sport into action. In February, the ITF hailed a major $3bn (€2.56bn) partnership with investment group Kosmos that is set to introduce a new annual season-ending national team tournament and realise long-held plans to transform the Davis Cup.

The 25-year contract with Kosmos, a European-based holding company focused on building a global portfolio of media and sports assets, will seek to revamp the historic competition, effectively creating a fifth grand slam event, and generate substantial revenues for global tennis development.

The ITF Board of Directors unanimously endorsed a proposal to create a major new annual season-ending World Cup of Tennis Finals that will crown the Davis Cup champions. Featuring 18 nations and played over one week in a single location in Europe in November, the event will be staged by Kosmos in partnership with the ITF.

Speaking ahead of today’s vote, Haggerty told the AFP news agency that the reforms will enhance the ITF’s ability to spread development funding across the world, injecting around $25m back into the sport.

“The ITF is the only organisation that puts money into the development of the game,” Haggerty said. “And that’s what this project enables us to do. The money that we make will be put back to the nations for their development programs and the future of tennis.”

The masterplan involves the creation of a new 24-team home and away qualifying event played in February, with the winning nations progressing to the Finals and the losing nations competing in Zone Group action.

An 18-team Finals, featuring 12 qualifiers, the previous year’s four semifinalists and two wild card nations, will consist of six round-robin groups of three teams followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and the final itself.

The six group winners plus two second-placed teams with the best records based on sets won and games won will qualify for the quarterfinals. The teams placed 17th and 18th will be immediately relegated to the Zone Groups, while the 12 teams placed from 16th to fifth will play in the following year’s qualifier event.

The plans have been met with a mixed reaction within the tennis community. Tennis Australia, which is backing a rival competition launched by men’s body the ATP, has said it plans to “vote against the proposed amendments” because the reform process has been “far from transparent”.

Continental body Tennis Europe is also opposing the plans, but the ITF has pointed to strong backing from three of the four organisers of the sport’s grand slam events – the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC), French Tennis Federation (FFT) and United States Tennis Association (USTA).

Haggerty admitted that while “change is difficult sometimes,” he had been encouraged by positive feedback from delegates in Florida this week.

He added: “The mood is good. The reception has been very positive. We just want to do the right thing for tennis… the new model allows the ITF to fulfil the mission in a much better way. Having more resources to put behind the development of tennis is the most important thing for an international federation.”