LONDON - Roger Federer has fired the first serious shots at Barcelona footballer-cum-entrepreneur Gerard Pique in the tennis turf war over its team events.
The Swiss legend has warned against his sport ceding too much power to Pique, whose plans for the new Davis Cup format threaten the Laver Cup - which Federer and his management team organise and promote.
"Be careful, the Davis Cup should not become the Pique Cup," said the world No 2 after making it into the second round of the US Open with a perfunctory 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over Japan’s Yoshito Nishioka.
Federer has been mobilised after Pique, who fronts the Kosmos Group that has won the rights to promote the Davis Cup, suggested he would wish to move the new 18-nation finals week to a September slot next year from its originally planned date in November.
The one-year-old Laver Cup, featuring a Europe team versus the Rest of the World, is scheduled for September 20-22 in Geneva in 2019, raising the possibility of a clash. The Laver Cup is already struggling to persuade all the best players to participate, undermining claims that it could turn into something like golf’s Ryder Cup.
Federer said: "The good part of this imbroglio is that everyone will have to sit around one table and listen to the other’s desires: the ITF (global governing body), the ATP (men’s tour), the Laver Cup.
"It is true that the coming weeks may be very interesting. I have not spoken to Gerard Pique yet, but I admit that it’s a bit odd to see a footballer arrive and meddle in the tennis business. I am globally for innovations - our sport needs to think a little outside the box to innovate. But it’s a bit like a game of Jenga. You have to be careful not to remove the brick that will bring down the whole building."
The problem for Pique and his backers is that players have indicated they are against competing in late November, further eroding the off-season. Their plan to revitalise the 118-year-old team competition involves staging eliminator fixtures each February, with winners entering the field for a week-long finals event at one neutral venue in Europe.
All this should not have come as a surprise to anyone and yet again the sport is suffering from the inability of its powerbrokers to work together for the common good. Matters are even further complicated by the ATP supporting a new World Team Cup event from 2020, due to be held in cities around Australia.