Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal talks to reporters during Media Day. Photograph:( Agencia EFE )
Spanish world number one Rafael Nadal expressed support for the recent overhaul of the Davis Cup, men's tennis' premier international team competition.
The 32-year-old superstar told reporters in New York, where he is making final preparations for the US Open, that the competition had been having "problems for years" and that a solution needed to be found.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion said it was too early to say if the change was the right one or not but he praised the 25-year, $3-billion partnership deal between the International Tennis Federation, which runs the Davis Cup, and the investment group Kosmos, headed by FC Barcelona star defender Gerard Pique.
The ITF voted this month to overhaul the competition starting in 2019, when the finals will be staged in November as an 18-team, one-week event at a neutral site.
Countries will be slotted into one of six three-team groups in a round-robin phase, with eight of them advancing to the quarter-finals.
All ties in both the round-robin and knockout stages will consist of two singles contests and one doubles rubber and feature only best-of-three-set matches.
That is a radical departure from the current format, which is played throughout the season and features best-of-five-set matches.
In each round (last-16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final), the teams have traditionally played two singles matches on Friday, a doubles match on Saturday and two reverse singles contests on Sunday if necessary.
The current format requires a year-long commitment by the players, and the top stars have not participated consistently due to other priorities and the desire to keep their bodies fresh for the four Grand Slam events.
Even so, the drastic change has been criticised by tennis greats such as Swiss 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and three-time Slam champ Andy Murray, who say a historically important competition has been altered beyond recognition.
One of the most-criticized elements is the adoption of a neutral site, since rowdy home crowds have added much to the flavor of the Davis Cup for decades.
Some home matches will be played starting in 2019 but only in a preliminary, 12-tie, 24-team qualifying round in February. The 12 winners will join the previous year's four Davis Cup semi-finalists and two wild-card teams in the final, neutral-site tournament in November.
But Nadal, the defending US Open champion, said that despite the criticism he would have cast a ballot in favor of the overhaul had he had a vote, saying that prestigious competition was no longer functioning as it should.
The ITF has said it will announce in the coming weeks whether Madrid or Lille, France, will host the November 18-24, 2019, Davis Cup final tournament under its revamped format.