The ATP Cup, which at one stage was cut from the calendar for 2021, will take place in Melbourne from 1-5 February after all, but it will be a trimmed down version of the successful team competition that was held in three cities across Australia at the start of 2020.
It won't be my decision but the final composition of the teams in the trimmed Team Cup will be based on the world rankings of the players involved - and, on this basis, South Africa are in 15th position and will only be included in the final 12 places if three of the countries above them do not enter teams for the tournament. Craig Tiley, AO Tournament Director and Tennis Australia CEO
The inaugural event, which saw 24 countries were split into 6 groups of 4 playing in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney, with 8 teams advancing to the Final 8 in Sydney, was won by Serbia, led by World No 1 Novak Djokovic, who defeated Spain in the final.
The next edition will be a 12-country, five-day affair leading into the Australian Open and, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, takes on a different look, with 11 teams qualifying based on the FedEx ATP Ranking of its highest-ranked singles player and Australia given a wild card as the host nation and Canada named as alternates if required.
The event will be staged at Melbourne Park where the 12 teams will be divided into 4 groups of 3 for group stage, round-robin play.
The winners from each group go on to contest the knock-out stages from the semi-final round on wards, which will be played on Thursday, 4 February, followed by the final on Friday, 5 February.
According to reports, Roger Federer has been named as one of Switzerland’s players, offering a further hint that he is preparing well for the Australian Open.
Although the line-up is subject to change, it seems all of the World top 11 players are looking to take part, with Kei Nishikori using his protected ranking to get Japan into the competition.
(subject to change)
- Serbia – Novak Djokovic and Dusan Lajovic
- Spain – Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut
- Austria – Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak
- Russia – Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev
- Switzerland – Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka
- Greece – Stefanos Tsitsipas and Michail Perolarakis
- Germany – Alexander Zverev and Jan-Lennard Struff
- Argentina – Diego Schwartzman and Guido Pella
- Italy – Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini
- Japan – Kei Nishikori and Yoshihito Nishioka
- France – Gael Monfils and Benoite Paire
- Australia (Wild Card) – Alex de Miñaur and Nick Kyrgios
- Canada (Alternates) – Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic
Each team has an on-court captain who may coach the players on change-overs and while most countries have yet to name theirs, Germany has confirmed that Mischa Zverev will be their team captain in Melbourne.
The 33-year-old, who is Zverev’s brother and is still competing on tour, has taken up the captaincy after both Boris Becker and Michael Kohlmann were unavailable to travel to Australia.
Becker resigned from his position with the DTB in November.
“So, we decided that Mischa should take over the function,” Kohlmann said.
Alongside the reduction in the number of teams, the 2021 ATP Cup will also have its prize money reduced from $15 million to $7.5 million.
Last year there were three different factors involved in awarding the total prize money to players, including a sum for participation, the prize money for individual match wins, and additional prize money for tie victories.
There could be a 40% reduction applied, depending on the crowd attendance turning up for the event held next year.
An undefeated player playing the event can make up to a maximum of 500 points as compared to 750 points in 2020, although, in doubles, the points remain the same as they were in the first year at 250.
With the reduction in the number of teams able to compete in the ATP Cup due to the organisational complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there are some notable absentees, including Great Britain and South Africa.
“It won’t be my decision but the final composition of the teams in the trimmed Team Cup will be based on the world rankings of the players involved – and, on this basis, South Africa are in 15th position and will only be included in the final 12 places if three of the countries above them do not enter teams for the tournament,” said the industrious Craig Tiley, AO’s Tournament Director and Tennis Australia’s CEO, who was born in South Africa.
Tiley added that the situation could change, with some countries’ top players not making themselves available for the ATP Cup and taking a different route in preparing for the Australian Open Grand Slam event, which follows soon afterwards.
“In fact I am aware of a couple of countries who are in this predicament, and we’ll have to see how matters pan out in regard to the line-ups that are submitted.”
Djokovic, however, is planning to use the ATP Cup as his warm-up event ahead of the AO, as he did last year when Nenad Zimonjic captained the Serbian team that won the inaugural ATP Cup, and has since apparently been sacked.
Former World No 12 Viktor Troicki, who is the new Serbian Davis Cup team captain, said: “Novak Djokovic was as surprised as I was. He didn’t want to get involved too much. His goal was for the Davis Cup to stay with the younger ones and for them to carry the national team and for him to be there to help.
“Krajinovic, Lajovic, Kecmanovic, Djere, they are all younger than our generation that won the Davis Cup,” Troicki added. “Novak is the main member and a lot depends on him. He wants to slowly give way to the younger ones.
“Not to be confused, he did not say that he would retire, but we will see when he can play. Of course he will be available.”
It seems there may well be changes to the ATP Cup lineup, however, as news breaks that Tsitsipas will probably skip the event to play in the ATP250 tournament in Melbourne before the AO.
The Greek, who is preparing for the new season in Dubai after recovering from Tecar Therapy on his legs in London, has decided not play either Delray Beach or Antalya.
Also, while the World No 6 is keen on playing for his country, his teammate Pervolarakis is ranked 456 could only get into the first major of the year via an unlikely wild card, so it seems more plausible for Tsitsipas to play the ATP250 in Melbourne instead of the ATP Cup.