Thu, 23 May 2019

Cape Town - It might not have been received with whole-hearted enthusiasm and unanimity when the ATP announced last week the introduction of a new team format at the start of their 2020 programme.

But purely from a South African perspective there could be a significant benefit with world No 6 Kevin Anderson - who has just cemented the best year-end finish by a South African in 45 years of the open era - quite possibly participating in the new event after what could well be a nine-year refusal to play in the Davis Cup, should he continue his self-imposed boycott next year.

Up to this point and for close to a decade the 32-year-old, but burgeoning Anderson has, in the main, based his reluctance to give invaluable and much-needed assistance to South Africa's Davis Cup campaign - defeats against Israel and Portugal this year mean relegation for the country to what is effectively a third division Euro-Africa Group Two in 2019 - in that it would disrupt his own progress on the ATP tournament circuit generally in one way or another.

However, in contrast in the matter of the ATP Cup, the new team event has supposedly been planned in a way and at a time to assist players ease their way into a new season, while acting as a timely curtain-raiser for the Australian Open, offering up to 750 ranking points and multi-million dollars in prize money.

Of course, some of the top players might still not believe the introduction of the three-city ATP Cup innovation in Australia featuring teams from 24 countries is such a great idea, that it clutters up further what is already an over-crowded itinerary and therefore decline to make themselves available for the new event.

And Anderson, for his part, could exit the ATP Cup as well, although the reasons expounded for his Davis Cup drought would fall away in this instance.

Intriguingly, in addition, among the fiercest critics of the ATP Cup is the International Tennis Federation, who believe the players body, namely the ATP, has been carried away by self-interest and not tennis in a wider sense - and are in the process sabotaging the world controlling body's own plans to revolutionise the historic Davis Cup with a revolutionary World Cup-type format that comes into effect towards the end of the 2019 season.

And opinions on the issues of the team events in tennis are hotly divided, reflected forcibly by the comments of world No 1 Novak Djokovic, who initially expressed misgivings about the introduction of the ATP Cup, but then - perhaps under the persuasive influence of the players' own hierarchy - doing a turnaround to match his on-court amazing recoveries, with a changed view that the more the number of attractive innovations in tennis, the better it is for the sport.

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