ATP strikes new blow against ITF as ATP Cup ousts Hopman Cup from Perth
Perth in Australia has been chosen as one of three host cities for the ATP Cup, the new 10-day men’s national teams tournament, in a decision that will have the knock-on effect of immediately ending Perth’s long-term hosting deal with the International Tennis Federation for the Hopman Cup, the mixed teams tennis tournament.
Perth will host the first six days of the 24-team ATP Cup along with Brisbane, with the eight-team finals to be played in Sydney.
With a prize pool worth $22 million, the ATP Cup will be the richest event outside the four grand slams.
The ITF put a brave face on the decision to bring an early end to the Hopman Cup deal with Tennis Australia, the sport’s national governing body, which had been due to run until 2022, amid fears that the decision could spell the end of the 31-year-old tournament.
In a statement it said that it “strongly believes in the importance of combined men and women’s events in the international tennis calendar and is committed to continuing to stage the Hopman Cup. The ITF has begun the search for a new tournament partner and received interest from cities around the world, following the Hopman Cup’s success over the past three decades with men and women players, sponsors, broadcasters and tennis fans.”
David Haggerty, the ITF president, added: “We are in discussions with potential partners to decide where and when this tournament will be next hosted. We will keep the Hopman Cup alive and look forward to successful future editions of this unique event.”
The decision is likely to be seen as a symbolic blow struck by the ATP in its long-running struggle against the ITF for power and influence over the sport.
The ITF recently introduced a new format for its own Davis Cup men’s national teams competition on the back of a 25-year, $3-billion partnership with Kosmos Tennis, the sports and media investment group founded by Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué. The initiative is also receiving significant financial backing from Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce company.
Chris Kermode, the ATP’s outgoing executive chairman and president, said of the decision to stage ATP Cup matches in Perth: “We’re going to kick start the global tennis season every January in Australia with this massive event.
“We know the ATP Cup will provide a great way to open the season – bringing together the world’s best for a major team event that compliments existing scheduling, provides highly-coveted ATP ranking points and clearly links to the Australian Open.
“The first week of the season is when the players want to play and that’s why the tournament has their strong support. By staging the event with Tennis Australia, which is renowned for its experience as an outstanding event promoter, we know that the tournament will be a great success from year one.”
A tender for the international media rights to the ATP Cup was sent out earlier this month.
The tender process is being handled by ATP Media, the global sales, broadcast production and distribution arm of the men’s professional tennis tour, with minimum three-year contracts on the table.
The international broadcast content for the tournament will be fully produced by ATP Media in conjunction with Tennis Australia as host broadcaster. As well as producing a world feed showcasing the best of the action, rights-holders will have the ability to show the action from every match via individual court feeds (containing both graphics and English language commentary), press conferences and bespoke social media content.
Broadcasters are able to bid for single or multi-territory packages, as well as rights across linear, digital, over-the-top and video-on-demand.
The ATP Cup will feature 24 teams (the top countries in the men’s singles rankings), split into six groups of four, competing in a total of 129 matches over a 10-day period in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
The inaugural event will take place on 3 to 12 January, 2020, one week before the Australian Open, the opening grand slam of the year, with a $15-million prize pot.
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.