The World Cup of Tennis, first mooted back in January, took a step closer to fruition this week as James Hird, the Australian behind the 32-nation every-other-year jamboree, met representatives of the ATP World Tour and the International Tennis Federation in Paris.
Both ATP World Tour Executive Chairman Adam Helfant and Juan Margets, the Spaniard who is currently the executive vice-president of the ITF and seen by many as the natural successor to Francesco Ricci Bitti whose tenure as president comes to an end in 2012, had one-on-one conversations with Hird whose sports marketing company, Gemba, conceived the idea of a World Cup not as a threat to the existing Davis Cup but auxiliary competition.
Hird is understood to have told both men that the World Cup, set to be staged over a ten day period, already had sufficient support from potential television companies and sponsors.
Helfant is currently on a mission to streamline the men’s calendar rather than broaden it but he also sees the need for the top contestants to play at an elite level more often. Margets, on behalf of the ITF, is believed to have underlined the desire to preserve the Davis Cup’s long time stance as the premier international team competition in the sport.
Hird, who was a stellar Australian Rules footballer, is extremely well connected in the sports marketing world and is believed to be close to News Corp patriarch Rupert Murdoch. He is prepared to negotiate with the ATP World Tour and ITF in fine tuning his original plans but said: “In the new world order, sports must compete with Hollywood blockbusters, video games, the worldwide web, television and music for a slice of the global consumers’ attention.
“We are conscious for the need for tennis to bring in an entirely new breed of followers — the youngster who doesn’t have the attention span for a five-set match.”
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