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Majority of nations vote for new season-ending Davis Cup tournament
Controversial proposals to revamp tennis’ Davis Cup and turn it into a season-ending 18-team event have been backed by national tennis federations.
While a majority among the 140 nations voted for the change at the annual general meeting of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), five federations - Tennis Australia, Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association and the United States, France and Germany - voted against the plans.
The 25-year £2.15bn plan - funded by an investment group led by footballer Gerard Pique - will start in 2019.
The Davis Cup, which was founded in 1900, has been played in the current format since 1981. 132 nations took part in 2018.
Pique told BBC's World Service "I can understand for a very traditional tournament like the Davis Cup, it's difficult for people and they have doubts.
"Everyone agrees that change has to be done, but there are some people who think it needs other changes and that is something I can understand."
ITF Chief Executive David Haggerty said the decision would elevate the Davis Cup "to new standards", advising "this new event will create a true festival of tennis and entertainment which will be more attractive to players, to fans, to sponsors and to broadcasters.”
However, Tennis Australia, which is backing a rival team competition planned by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), released a statement advising that it “is extremely disappointed with the radical changes proposed for the Davis Cup.
“Reform is vital for the competition but this proposal takes away too much of what makes the Davis Cup unique and special, especially the home and away aspect which has brought elite tennis to so many fans around the world.
“The ITF now has a major responsibility to ensure the great heritage and prestige of the competition is somehow retained in this new version of Davis Cup.”
Australia is to host a revamped World Team Cup in the first week of January from 2020 - less than two months after the conclusion of the Davis Cup finale in November.
Ulrich Klaus, President of the German Tennis Federation (DTB), which also voted against the plans advised that the decision was a "bitter pill to swallow", commenting “sadly, the discussion in the last few days was mainly about money and not about the sport.”
Players were not consulted in the process, but 71% of the voting federations backed the proposals at the AGM in Orlando, Florida, USA on Thursday.
The Davis Cup is currently played in February, April and September and November at home and away venues, with each World Group tie played over three days in a best-of-five tie of five-set matches.
However, an increasing number of top players have skipped matches in recent years to ease their schedule.
The reformed event would see matches played over the best of three sets, culminating in a World Cup-style tournament to determine the world champions.
24 teams would compete in home and away ties in February, with 12 winning teams advancing to the finals in November.
The four semi-finalists from the previous year's tournament, plus two wildcards, would complete the 18 teams.
The finals - to be staged in Europe as of November next year - would be a round-robin format before a knockout phase, with matches consisting of two singles and one doubles rubber.
Barcelona and former Spain defender Pique founded and leads the investment group Kosmos, which is backed by Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani.
Pique advised “this is the beginning of a new stage that guarantees the pre-eminent and legitimate place that the Davis Cup should have as a competition for national teams while adapting to the demands of this professional sport at the highest level.”
World number one Rafael Nadal and 13-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic are among the players who have supported Davis Cup reforms.
3rd July 2018 - Roger Federer to return to Perth for 2019 Hopman Cup
2nd July 2018 - ATP to launch World Team Cup event in Australia
29th March 2018 - Channel 9 and Tennis Australia agree five year tournament broadcast deal
2nd February 2018 - Australian Open the nation’s most popular sporting event
8th January 2018 - Revamped Melbourne Park ready for 2018 Australian Open
11th January 2017 - Record crowds secure Hopman Cup’s future in Perth
12th January 2016 - Sell-out crowd watches FAST4 Tennis at the Allphones Arena
5th December 2015 - Sponsorship surges as tennis boosted by ‘clean’ image
31st March 2012 - ITF ends Paul McNamee’s Hopman Cup management
2nd June 2010 - ATP says tennis in China is ready for take-off
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