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'Tennis needed a World Cup' - Pique's plans to revamp the Davis Cup

18:00 GMT+3 09/03/2018
Gerard Pique Madrid Open tenis
Two-time French Open finalist and former world number two Alex Corretja spoke to Goal about the defender's proposals to revolutionise the competition

Gerard Pique is branching out. The Barcelona centre-back is involved in plenty of activities outside his day job and his latest project will see him switch sports as he extends his influence from football to tennis.

The 31-year-old's investment group Kosmos has had plans to revamp the Davis Cup – which will see the introduction of an annual World Cup of Tennis Finals from 2019 – endorsed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

If approved in August, the proposals – backed by a number of top players, including Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic – will bring about a change in the current Davis Cup, the premier international team tournament in men's tennis.

The new World Cup format would be played in a single week in November instead of throughout the season, with shorter best-of-three set matches in singles and doubles in an 18-team competition described as "a complete game-changer" by ITF president David Haggerty.

Reaction to the plans has been mixed, but former world number two and double French Open finalist Alex Corretja told Goal: "For me, there are pros and cons, logically. It can be a spectacular format, there is no doubt about that.

"It is perhaps true that the magic of the Davis Cup, playing away from home, five-set matches, perhaps that will be lost with the new format. The ITF has accepted it. And in the end, the players will as well. It is just a little strange because the new format is nothing like the Davis Cup."

However, problems with the scheduling of an already packed calendar for the world's top players means it would be very difficult to organise a separate competition.

"For me, doing a World Cup was basic," Corretja said. "Tennis has to have a World Cup. The thing is that, if you have a World Cup, that means another week. Another week was difficult, so what they have thought is, for the world group, instead of an extra week, there is a meet-up at the end of the year."

The proposals have proven popular with many players, who have long complained of the gruelling schedule of the Davis Cup, and Corretja – a former winner with Spain in 2000 and later captain between 2011 and 2013 – understands the need for change.

"The Davis Cup is two or three weeks a year, but with changes of surface, time changes, etc," he said. "You'll be playing in Australia in January and four days later, you're playing on the other side of the world, in another continent, with a change of temperature, surface, balls, time changes. It takes its toll sometimes and that is why sometimes the players decide not to play. There have been calls for change."

The new format will also see the tournament played in just one location with an open bid process set to take place in order to assess fixed host cities – a model used by events including the Champions League final, the Superbowl and European rugby's Champions Cup.

"For the fans who travel to the tournament, it will be spectacular," Corretja said. "An unforgettable experience. But for those who cannot travel and who used to watch their idols play close to home, they are going to miss out. Whenever there are changes, you win some things and lose others. That's clear."

Pique has come in for criticism from some tennis fans and journalists as he is an outsider but Corretja believes he deserves praise for bringing innovation and funds into tennis.

"I know him a little and I have had the opportunity to talk about this with him," the 43-year-old said. "We haven't spoken recently, though, and I would love to speak to him about it all in person.

"But it shows me that he is passionate about tennis; that he wants to be involved. I don't understand why there are people saying 'stick to your own thing'. If he has brought in a sponsor with so many millions and they want to make changes, and the ITF has accepted, I don't think you can say anything to Pique.

"They should be grateful to Pique for having brought such an incredible movement to tennis and if anyone wants to know why these changes are being made, they need to ask the ITF, not Pique."