The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has hailed a major $3bn (€2.42bn) partnership with investment group Kosmos that is set to introduce a new annual season-ending national team tournament and realise long-held plans to overhaul 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 transform the historic Davis Cup and generate substantial revenues for global tennis development.
The ITF Board of Directors has 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 November, the event will be staged by Kosmos in partnership with the ITF.
Gerard Pique, the Spain and FC Barcelona football star, is the founder and president of Kosmos. The group is backed by Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten.
The ITF said the investment from Kosmos will include significant increases in prize money for players and member nations, and the funding of grass roots projects and other tennis development programmes. The proposal is subject to further development, and the successful completion of due diligence and finalisation of a formal agreement.
ITF president David Haggerty said: “This is a complete game-changer for the ITF and for tennis. Our board has supported a bold and ambitious plan for the future of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, one of the sport’s most cherished and important events and a key cornerstone in our ITF2024 strategy.
“Our vision is to create a major season-ending finale that will be a festival of tennis and entertainment, featuring the world’s greatest players representing their nations to decide the Davis Cup champions. This new partnership will not only create a true World Cup of Tennis, but will also unlock record levels of new investment for future generations of tennis players and fans around the world.”
The ITF said several world-class cities have already expressed interest in hosting the new event, with the federation and Kosmos to continue discussions with a view to launching the Finals in 2019. The plans will be submitted to the ITF Annual General Meeting, to be held in August in Orlando, Florida. A two-thirds majority will be required for final approval.
Under the plans, the World Cup of Tennis Finals will be played over seven days in November in the traditional week of the Davis Cup Final. Today’s announcement comes amid speculation in recent months that men’s tennis event the World Team Cup could return in 2019.
The original World Team Cup launched in 1975 and was held in Dusseldorf, Germany from 1978 to 2012. In August, Haggerty spoke of his disappointment after member nations refused to support a full package of reforms proposed for the Davis Cup and women’s Fed Cup. ITF members voted to approve a series of changes in relation to the two tournaments at the governing body’s annual general meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
However, the members did not approve the proposal for Davis Cup singles matches to be played as best-of-three tiebreak sets, rather than best-of-five sets. The motion received 63.54 per cent of the vote, falling short of the required two-thirds majority.
In July, the ITF postponed the proposed introduction of its new World Cup of Tennis to allow for further consultation with stakeholders. The ITF board had approved the launch of the World Cup of Tennis finals in November 2018 as part of a series of reforms to the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, pending approval at the governing body’s annual general meeting in Vietnam on August 4.
The ITF announced in June that Geneva had been selected by the governing body’s board as the ‘preferred bid’ to host the first three editions of the new annual end-of-season event, featuring the conclusion of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, from 2018 to 2020.
However, following consultations with stakeholders, the ITF said that it would defer putting the launch of the World Cup of Tennis forward for approval until the 2018 AGM “to allow more time to reach alignment.”