ATP Cup adds crowded dates be­fore Aussie Open

Antelope Valley Press - - Sports - By DEN­NIS PASSA

Roger Fed­erer won’t be play­ing un­til the Aus­tralian Open, but the the sum­mer of ten­nis Down Un­der ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2020 will be a lit­tle more hec­tic for ev­ery­body else.

Kick­ing off on Fri­day with the start of the new 24-team, Davis Cup-style ATP Cup in three cities across Aus­tralia, play­ers will have a host of op­tions to them on both the ATP and WTA tours.

Fed­erer and Switzer­land aren’t in­volved in the ATP Cup, but No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal and No. 2 No­vak Djokovic will be rep­re­sent­ing Spain and Ser­bia, re­spec­tively. No. 3 Fed­erer wants to spend more time with his fam­ily be­fore the start of the Aus­tralian Open on Jan. 20 in Mel­bourne.

When the ATP Cup con­cludes on Jan. 12, Djokovic is sched­uled to play at the Ade­laide In­ter­na­tional, a joint ATP-WTA tour­na­ment that in­cludes world No. 1 women’s player Ash Barty of Aus­tralia. Also in that week across the Tas­man Sea in New Zealand will be the ATP’s Auck­land Open.

The Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional, for­merly a joint ATP-WTA event, will be a women’s only tour­na­ment this year with home­town star Barty among a group of head­lin­ers also in­clud­ing Aus­tralian Open cham­pion Naomi Osaka, be­gin­ning next Mon­day.

Venus Wil­liams, who had been given a wild card for Bris­bane, pulled out with an undis­closed train­ing “set­back”on Wed­nes­day. She still hopes to play in Ade­laide.

Also on the WTA Tour, the ASB Clas­sic next week has se­cured a bit of a coup with Ser­ena Wil­liams and Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, who will re­tire af­ter the Aus­tralian Open, sched­uled to at­tend and play sin­gles as well as dou­bles to­gether in New Zealand. The Ho­bart In­ter­na­tional will be played the same week in Aus­tralia.

The 38-year-old Fed­erer, who has won 20 Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles, is the only one of the top seven play­ers in the men’s rank­ings who will not be com­pet­ing in the 10-day ATP Cup in Perth, Bris­bane and Syd­ney.

“He’s made the de­ci­sion to spend some time with his fam­ily and he’s ob­vi­ously a lot more con­scious of how much he’s play­ing (as he gets older),” ATP Cup tour­na­ment direc­tor Tom Larner told the Aus­tralian Associated Press. “For ev­ery­thing Roger has given to the sport we’re ac­cept­ing of that.”

Andy Mur­ray will not be ap­pear­ing for Bri­tain, with­draw­ing fol­low­ing an in­jury set­back af­ter his re­turn from hip surgery.

Aus­tralia will play in Bris­bane with Ger­many, Greece and Canada. In the other Bris­bane group it’s Ser­bia, France, South Africa and Chile. In Syd­ney, Bel­gium, Bri­tain, Bul­garia and Molodova com­prise one group while the other con­tains Ar­gentina, Aus­tria, Croa­tia and Poland. Perth hosts the United States, Rus­sia, Italy and Nor­way and an­other group com­pris­ing Spain, Japan, Uruguay and Georgia.

Kei Nishikori with­drew from the Japan team for the

ATP Cup and from the Aus­tralian Open.

“I am still not 100% ready to com­pete at the high­est level,” Nishikori said. He has not com­peted since the U.S. Open be­cause of a right el­bow in­jury that re­quired surgery in Oc­to­ber.

There are a num­ber of in­no­va­tions to be pro­vided at the ATP Cup, in­clud­ing Team Zones, which will re­place the player chairs near the um­pire, and on-court coach­ing where the cap­tain, coaches and play­ers can of­fer in­put.

Each en­counter will be best-of-three, three-set matches — two sin­gles and a dou­bles. The six group win­ners plus two sec­ond-place coun­tries go through to the fi­nal se­ries in Syd­ney be­gin­ning Jan. 9.

Associated Press

STAY­ING HOME Roger Fed­erer chases a shot dur­ing the quar­ter­fi­nals of the U.S. Open on Sept. 3. Fed­erer won’t play in any tour­na­ments be­fore the Aus­tralian Open.

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