New format unveiled for Fed Cup competition

Published by AP

Kristina Mladenovic (L) and Caroline Garcia in action for France in this year's Fed Cup semifinals - the last year of the traditional competition (Getty Images)
From 2020, the Fed Cup will be a six-day event on clay in Budapest in April, featuring 12 teams playing for a $US18 million prize.

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 $US18 million ($A26 million) prize on clay courts in Budapest, Hungary.

The ITF has already switched the Davis Cup to a similar pattern, with the first 18-team final event to be played this 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.

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.

“Fed Cup has evolved since I was part of the first winning team in 1963 but it has always remained true to its roots,” said Billie Jean King, now a Fed Cup global ambassador.

“These reforms are historic as they reflect the ITF’s commitment to unlocking the Fed Cup’s huge potential, hosting a competition with prize money deserving of the world’s best women’s tennis teams and players.

“It is an honour to be part of the next evolution of the greatest event in women’s team tennis.”

Only 10 of the 12 teams at the final tournament will have qualified on merit. Organisers will offer one team a wildcard and Hungary, which hasn’t played top-tier Fed Cup tennis since 2002, is guaranteed a spot as host.

The first two teams guaranteed to qualify are Australia and France, who will play in this year’s Fed Cup final in Perth in November.

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