Details of the ATP Cup were revealed at a news conference at London’s O2 Arena this week, against the backdrop of the season-ending ATP Tour Finals. For the announcement, Kermode was joined by Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley and world number one Novak Djokovic.
The new event has been seen by some as a threat to the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) revamped Davis Cup, which returns in November 2019 with an 18-nation final in Madrid. The ATP Cup will then follow in the first week of January 2020 and will take place over 10 days in three Australian cities.
“This is never an attempt to damage the Davis Cup, but we have got to look forward,” Chris Kermode, ATP President exclusively told CNBC. “I think they can run alongside each other. Other sports have shown you can have multiple team events. I think having them too close together is an issue, but I can see that being resolved at some point.”
The ATP Cup, which will clash with the ATP’s Doha tournament, will see 24-nations split into six groups, with eight emerging to compete in a knockout phase.
“What’s in it for them is two-fold. It’s a $15 million dollar prize pot. It’ll be the biggest prize money pot on our tour. Just as importantly, they’ve got a real say in this event.” Kermode said. “That’s what the ATP is about, it’s owned 50 percent by the players and 50 percent by the promoters, so it gives the players a huge voice in our sport to have their own event.’
The ATP acknowledges that for nearly the past two decades, men’s tennis has been in an era of almost unprecedented quality. The era of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray has seen huge growth in terms of generating revenue, which has risen 62 percent since 2012 to almost $150 million. Total prize money for its sixty-four yearly events has increased to $137.5 million for 2018.
The ATP will also be completely rebranded for 2019, centred on attracting in a younger audience, having identified that the average age of someone who attends live tennis is currently 61.
The six-week gap between the ATP Cup and the Davis Cup was earlier this year labelled “insane” by Kermode, and on Wednesday Djokovic suggested it would result in “two average events”.
However, speaking at the official launch of the ATP Cup on Thursday, Djokovic appeared to back the new competition.
“It’s really nice to have a new fresh team event, the ATP Cup, to kick-start the year in the best possible way on our terms,” said the World Number One. “Obviously the Australian Open is one of the four Grand Slams which are historically the biggest events in our sport and to be able to have a couple of weeks before that an event like this is truly going to make an impact.”
Participation in the ATP Cup will not be mandatory and so as well as huge $15 million prize fund, the new tournament is offering up to 750 ranking points, adding to the incentive for the players.