ITF says World Cup idea has interesting elements

LONDON (Reuters) - A proposed tennis "World Cup" to replace the Davis Cup has interesting elements but also many challenges, the International Tennis Federation said on Wednesday.

The ITF added in a statement that the Davis Cup had not lost its intrinsic values and had shown in more than 110 years of existence that it could change with the times.

"Everyone is in agreement that a nation vs nation format is very attractive, something Davis Cup has recognized for over a century, and only time will tell if a new competition can earn a regular place in the tennis calendar," it said.

"Davis Cup remains true to the ITF's mission to grow tennis around the world by providing a mechanism for our nations to develop players, including many of the today's top players, in their individual countries," added the statement.

"It should also be noted that, last year, following a request by the top players for an amended schedule, the ITF signed a five-year agreement with the ATP World Tour guaranteeing dates and ranking points."

Serbian world number three Novak Djokovic had said earlier in Melbourne that the ATP Players Council had proposed the scheduling of a 'World Cup' to provide less rigorous international competition.

Djokovic, an elected member of the Players Council along with world number one Roger Federer and second-ranked Rafael Nadal, said the group would raise the concept with officials and stakeholders as one of a raft of ideas to invigorate the game and shorten a season many players believe is too taxing.

ALL IDEAS

"Well, we proposed it," Djokovic told reporters. "But as I said, you know, it's all very fresh and it's all ideas.

"We didn't decide to put anything on official terms because we have to consider other sides as well, you know. But the main point is that we are trying to make the sport improve and get better, and players are most important."

Britain's Times newspaper said the plan was the brainchild of a Melbourne-based sports marketing group and had been presented to officials in Britain, the U.S. and Australia.

The biennial tournament, branded 'the Grand Slam of Nations', would be held over 10 days and involve 32 teams pooled into four groups, with 16 progressing to a knockout stage.

Ties would consist of five-set matches and would require at least two players to play in each tie in a sped-up program inspired by the success of Twenty20 cricket.

Australia Open boss Craig Tiley said the concept was "innovative, refreshing and thoughtfully put together."

"Any initiative that will further expose our sport and will grow its participation, particularly in Australia but also worldwide, has to be great for tennis," he added.

Djokovic said the Players Council would have talks in Australia that would be "crucial" for upcoming years.

"I'm happy that all the top players are willing to participate in these talks and try to contribute and fight for their own right," he added.

British world number five Andy Murray was enthusiastic.

"I am a great fan of the Davis Cup, but if a decision was taken to drop it, or something else could change in the calendar, then a World Cup is a fascinating idea," he said.

Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic said the Davis Cup, which has suffered flagging ratings and is regularly snubbed by the world's top players, had become outdated.

"It's because the format is not suited for the players at the moment," he said. "Maybe it was perfect 20 or 30 years ago... and it's a shame because I'm 100 percent sure that every player would love to play for his nation."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom and Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)