ITF president outlines reform plan for national team showpieces

New International Tennis Federation (ITF) president David Haggerty has unveiled plans to revamp the Davis Cup and Fed Cup national team tournaments, including the proposal to introduce a ‘Final Four’ concept to the men’s and women’s events.

The two annual competitions have suffered from top players withdrawing due to the demands of the packed tennis calendar. At present, the initial world groups consist of eight nations for the Fed Cup and 16 for the Davis Cup, leading through to the finals in November.

Haggerty has said the ‘home-and-away’ format works for the earlier rounds of the competitions, but has called for the semi-finals and final to be played in one week at a neutral venue – a model that is utilised for a number of other major sporting events.

“What would be very interesting for me is a final four concept,” Haggerty told the latest edition of ITFWorld magazine. “In the final week, generally in November, we would have the final four teams come together in a neutral location somewhere to be determined. We would be able to plan in advance where that is. We could have the semi-finals in the first three days, a day of rest and then three days for the final.”

Haggerty has also called for the reigning champions to potentially receive a bye in the first round of the following year’s competition. This would avoid a repeat of the situation in the 2015 Davis Cup when reigning champions Switzerland crashed out in the first round, minus their star players Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka. “The players I have talked to have been very positive about that idea and I think it would cause them to play a little more than they do right now,” Haggerty said.

The US official said the best of five set format for men could also be looked at, adding: “(The Davis Cup) is a great property, but I want to polish it a little bit. We've got to make sure what we do resonates with the fans and spectators.”

Haggerty was elected as the new president of the ITF in September, succeeding Francesco Ricci Bitti, whose 16-year term as ITF president ended at the federation’s annual general meeting in Santiago, Chile. Haggerty, a former chief executive and president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), will serve a four-year term from 2015 to 2019.