Tennis Australia has pledged to protect the much-loved Davis Cup after unveiling a new tennis teams competition bearing the name of local legend Rod Laver.
‘The Laver Cup’ will become an annual event from next year, inviting six players from Europe against a ‘Rest of the World’ team each September.
The non-rankings event – modelled on golf’s Ryder Cup – will take place over one weekend, featuring singles and doubles.
Tennis Australia (TA) is part of a consortium behind the tournament, including Swiss-Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann and Roger Federer’s management company Team8.
The introduction of a new event targeting the world’s top players is likely to weaken the Davis Cup further, but TA president Stephen Healy says that isn’t the goal.
“We will never do anything to hurt Davis Cup,” he said.
“We want to participate and win Davis Cup.
“This is a very short event, over three days. We don’t think one will affect the other.”
Laver said the event would take some massaging into the already-packed schedule of the world’s top players.
“It’s a learning curve of trying to get the right scheduling and the right amount of play with all of the different players,” he said.
“I’m honoured to have my name associated … hopefully the top players will want to participate.”
Team8 president Tony Godsick said he hoped Laver’s involvement would elevate the event beyond exhibition status.
“We hope they’ll play hard for Mr Laver,” he said.
“We hope with his name on it, the passion he exhibits for it, this will be enough for the players to look at it as a serious event.”
Planning has progressed to the point where host cities are being considered for the 2017 event.
“We would like to go to cities where tennis might not be,” Godsick said.
“At some point in time, whether it’s the first, the second, whatever it is, I imagine it will be in Australia.”
Should the world’s leading players participate, Europe looks set to dominate the Laver Cup’s early years.
The world’s top six players – Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Federer, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych – are all European.