SYDNEY, Australia — Rafael Nadal won a revamped Davis Cup in November and he lost Sunday’s final of the ATP Cup, the newest international team competition.
He thinks it’s too much.
After walking off following another hardcourt loss to Novak Djokovic, allowing Serbia to level the final after Roberto Bautista Agut won the opening singles for Spain, Nadal urged the men’s tennis tour and the sport’s international governing body to form one major team tournament.
“I think it’s a great competition but … I can’t change my mind that two World Cups (within two months) is not real,” the top-ranked Nadal said. “We need to find a way to fix it and we need to find a way to make a big deal with ITF and ATP to create a big World Team Cup competition, not two World Cups in one month.
“I think that’s a confusion for the spectators, and we need to be clear in our sport. And for the health of our sport and for the benefit of our sport (it) is, in my opinion, mandatory that we fix it.”
Nadal withdrew from Spain’s doubles team for the deciding match, and Djokovic combined with Viktor Troicki to win it and clinch the final 2-1.
The 33-year-old Nadal played six singles matches — winning four — and two doubles in the 10-day, 24-team ATP Cup tournament, and played the group stage in Perth before flying across the continent for the playoff stages. It was a hit with the fans, with more than 220,000 attending matches during the tournament. Group matches were divided among Perth on the west coast and Sydney and Brisbane in the east, three cities in three different time zones.
The Australian Open, the season-opening major, starts in Melbourne a week from Monday, leaving little time for recovery for the players in teams which reached the final eight.
“When I’m playing here, I’m not thinking about Melbourne, or when I’m playing in Monte Carlo I’m not thinking about Roland Garros,” Nadal said, rejecting the suggestion the tournament was too close to a Grand Slam event. “I think it’s a great competition. Excited to be part of it. Excited to represent my country.
‘“I enjoyed a lot to share all these weeks with my friends on the team. The organization have been fantastic, honestly. Just my mind is that we need to create one special thing, not two.”
Other players, including second-ranked Djokovic, have urged the tennis hierarchy to come up with one big championship.
Djokovic said at the Davis Cup in Madrid and at the start of the ATP Cup here that men’s tennis needs “one super World Cup event, whatever you want to call it.”
“That’s not going to happen next year as well. But if the two sides, the ITF, the Davis Cup, and the ATP get together very quickly, it can happen possibly for 2022,” said Djokovic, who led Serbia to the Davis Cup title in 2010. “I hope it will happen because it’s kind of hard to get top players to commit to play both events. And it’s six weeks apart, so they’re not really helping each other in terms of marketing, in terms of the value of the event, and so forth.”
The Davis Cup has been staged in varying formats since 1900, with the ITF transforming it last year from a tiered, home-and-away series spanning 10 months to a single tournament based in one city with qualifying based on rankings.
The ATP Cup followed the condensed format, but also introduced new initiatives including team zones on the court-side where coaches, captains and teammates can support the player on the court.
The 33-year-old Nadal, a 19-time major winner, wouldn’t be drawn on where in the schedule a single World Cup-style competition should fit.
“I can’t tell you my real opinion, because will not make sense today,” Nadal said. ”And it’s not that easy. Is a little bit longer conversation.”