Spanish footballer Gerard Pique has emerged as the unlikely mover behind a potentially huge innovation on the tennis calendar.
The Barcelona defender and his associates are among several groups interested in backing a new men’s team event to rival the Davis Cup. The ATP Tour is considering a competition of 16 countries, including GB, in a week-long World Cup style event.
Pique was at the Madrid Open this week and has been in discussions with tour officials.
The ATP Tour tried a relatively low-key event known as the World Team Cup from 1975 until 2012. It had only eight teams and attracted few of the top players in its slot prior to the French Open.
The new event would have big prize money to attract top players and a better date.
Roger Federer and his agency, Team 8, are also trying a new Europe v Rest of the World event, the Laver Cup, in Prague in September.
There will be six players on either side in a three-day match with four chosen on ranking plus two Ryder Cup-style ‘Captain’s picks’ made by skippers John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. The event is sold out, but participation is still an issue and Asia’s top star, Kei Nishikori, won’t play.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic, who is also yet to commit to the Laver Cup, says he may have a new coach in place by the French Open. Mats Wilander and Andre Agassi have been linked and the world No 2 — who was watched by Ilie Nastase on Wednesday as he made it into the third round in Madrid by beating Nicolas Almagro 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 — said: ‘I guess it’s normal that people start coming up with names. Right now I don’t have anyone.’
Andy Murray plays Borna Coric in the third round today.