Fed Cup follows Davis Cup with new tournament format
LONDON (AP) — The Fed Cup is following the Davis Cup with a new tournament format.
Starting next year, the women's tennis event will be a six-day final tournament in April with 12 teams playing for an $18 million prize on clay courts in Budapest, Hungary, the International Tennis Federation said Thursday.
The ITF has already switched the Davis Cup to a similar pattern, with the first 18-team final event to be played in November in Madrid.
"We have consulted and listened to stakeholders and worked with the WTA and its Player Council to make sure the new format represents the interests of the players," ITF president David Haggerty said in a statement.
Not everyone welcomed the change.
"Good job on killing the competition just as they did with Davis Cup," France's Alize Cornet said in a sarcastic tweet with three icons of clapping hands, "and nobody even bothered to ask the opinion of the players whatsoever."
The 55th-ranked Cornet added it was "very disappointing."
The changes to the Fed Cup ease the strain on the tennis calendar by going from three weeks to two, with qualifying matches in February. The current system has a final series in November, seven months after the semifinals.
However, a new round robin stage at the final tournament means players will play more matches.
Only 10 of the 12 teams at the final tournament will have qualified on merit. Organizers will offer one team a wild card and Hungary, which hasn't played top-tier Fed Cup tennis since 2002, is guaranteed a spot as host.
"The new Fed Cup format is good for tennis and will keep tennis as a leader in women's sports on a global level," said tennis great Billie Jean King, the new ITF global ambassador and former U.S. Fed Cup player and captain.
The first two teams guaranteed to qualify are Australia and France, which will play in this year's Fed Cup final in Perth in November.