Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said he is excited to be the driving force behind International Tennis Federation (ITF) plans to revamp the Davis Cup.
Pique’s company, Kosmos, will invest $3 billion into the sport over the next 25 years to not just help transform the Davis Cup into the World Cup of Tennis, but also to help develop the game worldwide.
Kosmos, an investment group founded by Pique, is backed by Hiroshi Mikitani, the chairman and CEO of Japanese company Rakuten, who have been Barca’s main sponsors since 2017.
“Kosmos is thrilled to join in this exciting partnership with the ITF,” Pique said in a statement issued by the organisation. “Together we can elevate the Davis Cup to new heights by putting on a must-see World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring the top nations and top players.”
The ITF announced plans earlier this week for the Davis Cup to be transformed into a one-week, one-location, 18-nation World Cup of Tennis in a major overhaul aimed at enticing the best men’s players to participate.
David Haggerty, president of the ITF, said that the changes were aimed at making the tournament more appealing to the game’s top players.
The Davis Cup has struggled for relevance in a crowded sporting calendar in recent years because many top players have chosen not to play.
Pique first proposed a rival to the Davis Cup during talks with ATP chief Chris Kermode, among others, last May at the Madrid Open.
The Barca centre-back sought the opinion of some of the game’s top players at the time and the feedback he received on his plan was positive.
Speaking of Pique’s suggested changes last year, Rafael Nadal called the ITF “static” and criticised the organisation’s inability to change with the times.
Andy Murray, meanwhile, said it was “a really exciting idea which would be a really good thing for tennis.”
Novak Djokovic added: “I’ve spoken with [Pique] many times about some good initiatives — but some of them are confidential. It’s fantastic that a football star like Pique would get involved with tennis. He’s a great guy, and I have a lot of respect for him.
“[The proposal] is something that would only bring positives. There are ideas and projects, but tennis is really complicated; there are lots of tournaments, institutions and associations. In any case, all this is really good for the sport.”
The ITF finally bought into Pique’s idea after the Spain international presented the proposal to the board in Barcelona on Saturday before his side’s 6-1 La Liga win against Girona.
Haggerty said plans are in place for the revamp to take place in 2019, with the first World Cup of Tennis scheduled for November.
A round-robin format will be followed by a quarterfinal knockout stage. Each tie will consist of two singles and one doubles over best-of-three sets.
The response from the wider tennis world has been mixed, with the ITF’s announcement catching some by surprise and leaving others sceptical.