The year 2019 marks a new beginning for the Davis Cup. The premier national team tennis competition kicked off on Monday at the Caja Magica in Madrid, Spain. The ITF (International Tennis Federation) has rebranded this iconic 119-year-old competition.
Davis Cup 2019 will now be played in a World Cup format as 18 national teams compete for the title. FC Barcelona star Gerard Pique's sports investment company, Kosmos, collaborated with the ITF in order to provide the financial support necessary to revamp the tournament.
The old format of the Davis Cup saw teams playing in either home or away venues. But following the revamp, the competition will now be held at one location over a week.
In 2018, 132 nations took part in the competition. This year onwards, 18 teams will be split into six groups consisting of three teams each. The winners from each group along with the two best runners-up will qualify for the quarter-finals.
In recent years, an increasing number of top players have decided to skip matches to ease their schedules. Such a situation led to the controversial proposal of revamping the tournament. It was finally decided that the competition will be turned into a season-ending 18-team event. The plan is a part of the 25-year £2.15 billion deal funded by Pique's Kosmos investment group.
Speaking of the revamp, former British number one Tim Henman said, "Change was necessary. Top players were not playing and you could understand the reality that if you were going to get to the finals, it was going to take up eight weeks of your year. It can be a struggle physically and geographically. Top players were playing less and less, and so they had to take action."
To decide if a revamp was necessary or should the organisers stick with the previous format, a vote was held at the ITF annual general meeting in August 2018. Out of 140 nations, a two-thirds majority was needed for approval. According to BBC, 71% of the participants backed the proposal.
Britain's Andy Murray said that he is "open to change." He urged everyone to give a chance to the newly proposed format before criticising it.