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Ricci Bitti calls for shorter year – and shorter sets

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Originally published on: 05/03/10 15:35

Francesco Ricci Bitti has suggested streamlining both the ATP tournament calendar and, controversially, the set scoring system in order to help ease the commitments of the top players.

The ITF president’s comments come just days before the first round of this year’s Davis Cup, from which many of the top players will not be turning out for their nations.

Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Andy Roddick have all opted out of the opening ties, with Roddick and Murray not expected to compete in this year’s competition at all.

Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro will miss Spain and Argentina’s ties through injury.

“One of the keys might be that the strongest players compete in fewer tournaments,” he suggested in_L’Equipe_ today. “The sport would also benefit from switching to short sets with a tie-break at 4-4.”

Novak Djokovic will line up to face a new-look US Davis Cup squad, missing both Roddick and James Blake – another who has opted out in 2010 – for the first time in a decade.

But the Serbian world No.3 is one of the key supporters of plans to pioneer a new tennis world cup, viewed by many as a direct threat to the future of the Davis Cup.

After weeks of silence on the issue, Ricci Bitti finally made his feelings clear on the proposals last month.

“What they are talking about is a completely different animal to Davis Cup, so we are not against it,” said the Italian. “We understand that any promoter could find that it is a good idea to have a team event.

“It has happened in the past, it will happen again in the future. They are two different products, two different concepts.”

Despite refusing to view the planned rival team event as a threat to the 110-year-old competition, Ricci Bitti was adamant that the idea will face the same problems that the Davis Cup does – and is less prepared to meet them.

“The calendar is annual – [playing an event] every second year, in tennis, is a completely stupid idea,” he continued. “We know the problems better than anybody with the Olympics being held every four years – it’s a headache.”

And he warned that while the absence of the top players from Davis Cup was regrettable, it would be a disaster for a new, profit-driven competition.

“If you don’t have all the top players, you are in bankruptcy, we have experience that it is a failure when people do not have their own team to support. We believe it’s working. We are always listening to the players, but the model is this one because our mission is not to maximise the profit.”

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