Lexus joins Davis Cup sponsors as Piqué defends revamped competition
Lexus, the luxury car brand of Japanese automotive manufacturer Toyota, has signed up as a new sponsor of tennis' Davis Cup, the revamped men's national teams competition.
Under the deal with the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos Tennis, the sports and media investment group founded by Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué (pictured, right), Lexus will be the official car of the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, which take place in Madrid in November.
The company will provide transportation for the players and other representatives of the 18 competing nations.
The ITF has introduced a new format for the Davis Cup on the back of a 25-year, $3-billion partnership with Kosmos, founded by Piqué, and with significant financial backing from Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce company.
ITF president David Haggerty said: “The ITF is delighted to welcome Lexus as an official sponsor of the Davis Cup Finals and we look forward to working with them to further raise the international profile of this exciting new event.”
Javier Alonso, chief executive officer of Kosmos Tennis, added: "Lexus is a leader within its sector and a brand of renowned prestige around the world. Its commitment to the Davis Cup will contribute to the promotion of the tournament at the international level, especially in the markets where Lexus has more presence, such as the United States."
The new agreement represents further commercial endorsement of the format, coming on the back of other deals with Spanish soccer's LaLiga and Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex.
However, several high-profile players have questioned Barcelona player Piqué's involvement, including Swiss star Roger Federer who said at last year's US Open that it was "a bit odd to see a footballer arrive and meddle in the tennis business. The Davis Cup should not become the Piqué Cup.”
However, speaking to BBC Sport at the Davis Cup Finals draw in Madrid, Piqué said he hated the competition being referred to as such, adding: "I think people who use this name, it is because they didn't understand the change of the competition and why we are doing this. I think we have to prove that they are wrong. Obviously I will not be the one organising the competition and we will not be changing any laws of tennis. What we are trying to do is help the ITF create a much better event."
He added: "In the future we will see this competition as one of the biggest in the calendar of tennis."
Piqué also suggested that the Davis Cup and women's Fed Cup Finals, also organised by the ITF, could become a combined event "in the close future."
The 2019 Davis Cup Finals will take place at the Caja Mágica in Madrid from 18 to 24 November, but there is conflict with the rival 24-team ATP Cup, which is due to launch in Australia in January 2020, potentially presenting players with a quandary over which event to prioritise.
Debate has raged for months as to whether tennis, which already has a crowded calendar, can have two national team tournaments, but neither the ITF nor the ATP has been willing to cede defeat, albeit Haggerty has maintained that they could yet merge.