Tennis

Rafael Nadal joins Novak Djokovic in calls for just one team tourney

Spaniard loses to Djokovic, who helps Serbia win inaugural ATP Cup

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal won a revamped Davis Cup with hosts Spain in November. Yesterday, he reached the final of the ATP Cup, the new international team competition, in Australia.

And he thinks it's too much.

After walking off following another hard-court loss to Novak Djokovic in the second singles, paving the way for Serbia to clinch the ATP Cup, Nadal urged the men's tour and the sport's international governing body to form one major team tournament.

"It is a great competition, but at the same time - I can't change my mind that two World Cups (within two months) is not (realistic)," said the 33-year-old.

"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.

"It'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 is, in my opinion, mandatory that we fix it."

Spain had won the first singles with Roberto Bautista Agut beating Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-1, but were pegged back after Nadal lost the second singles 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) to world no. 2 Djokovic.

Djokovic then teamed up with Viktor Troicki to defeat Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4 and help Serbia win the inaugural competition.

Nadal played six singles matches - winning four - and two doubles in the 10-day tournament, playing the group stage in Perth on Australia's west coast before flying across the country for the knockout stage.

The Australian Open, the season-opening Major, starts in Melbourne next Monday, but Nadal rejected the suggestion the tournament was too close to a Grand Slam.

"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," he said.

"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 or week and a half with my friends on the team. The organisation has been fantastic. Just my mind is that we need to create one special thing, not two."

Other players, including Djokovic, have also urged the tennis hierarchy to come up with just one big championship.

Djokovic, who extended his lead in career head-to-heads with Nadal to 29-26 yesterday, said at the Davis Cup in Madrid and before the ATP Cup that men's tennis needs "one super World Cup event, whatever you want to call it".

POSSIBLY 2022

"That's not going to happen next year as well. But, if the two sides, the ITF and the ATP get together very quickly, it can happen possibly for 2022," he said ahead of the tournament.

"I hope it will happen because it's kind of hard to get top players to commit to play both events, the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup.

"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. And one is very early in the season. One is the last one in the season."

Nadal, a 19-time Major winner, wouldn't be drawn on where a single World Cup-style competition should fit in the schedule.

"I can't tell you my opinion, because will not make sense today. And it's not that easy. Is a little bit longer conversation," Nadal said. - AP

Tennis