New tennis era kicks off with ATP Cup as Federer opts out - GulfToday

New tennis era kicks off with ATP Cup as Federer opts out

New tennis era kicks off with ATP Cup as Federer opts out

Rafael Nadal of Spain (second right) strolls in the shallows with his team (L-R) Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta and captain Francisco Roig on a Rottnest Island beach on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Tennis’ innovative new team championship kicks off the men’s 2020 season on Friday, with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic among those looking for a winning start ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year.

The ATP Cup will see 24 nations split into six groups across three Australian cities, with eight teams emerging from the round-robin to compete in a knockout phase until one country is left standing.

However, it has already suffered setbacks, with major drawcard Roger Federer opting to give it a miss and Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori pulling out injured. Despite this, world number two Djokovic said the move towards more team tennis was good for a sport best known for the individuality of its global superstars.

“More than 90 percent of the time, we’re playing as individuals and we don’t have too many team events,” said Djokovic.

Sydney hosts the finals, along with group games, which are also held in Brisbane and Perth with $15 million in prize money and up to 750 singles and 250 doubles ATP rankings points at stake.

Kyrgios spearheads local hopes for Australia in Brisbane against the Alexander Zverev-led Germany while Greece take on Canada in the same city.

First up in Perth will be the US against Norway followed by Russia and Italy. Djokovic makes his tournament debut in Brisbane for Serbia on day two, as does Spanish world number one Nadal in Perth.

Under the format, the second-ranked singles players from each country face each other first, then the top-ranked men ahead of a potentially decisive doubles.

A country winning two of three matches will claim the tie.

Group A (Brisbane): Serbia, France, South Africa, Chile; Group B (Perth): Spain, Japan, Georgia, Uruguay; Group C (Sydney): Bulgaria, Belgium, Great Britain, Moldova; Group D (Perth): Russia, Italy, USA, Norway; Group E (Sydney): Austria, Croatia, Argentina, Poland; Group F (Brisbane): Germany, Greece, Canada, Australia

Meanwhile, Venus Williams pulled out of the season-opening Brisbane International on Wednesday after a “setback” during practice.

The American veteran said she still hoped to play at the Adelaide International later this month ahead of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year.

“Unfortunately I will not be starting my season in Brisbane due to an unexpected setback during my training,” the 39-year-old seven-time major winner said in a statement.

“I look forward to being in Australia in the new year and will see everyone in Adelaide.”

Agence France-Presse

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