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Davis Cup: Gerard Pique promises to ‘prove wrong’ critics of his tournament reform role

Gerard Pique, pictured with International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty, was at the Davis Cup finals draw on Thursday

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says he will “prove wrong” critics of his role in the reform of the Davis Cup.

And the four-time Champions League winner says he “hates” it when Roger Federer and others refer to the competition as the “Pique Cup”.

The 25-year, £2.15bn revamp of the Davis Cup is funded by an investment group led by Pique’s Kosmos company.

“In the future we will see this competition as one of the biggest in the calendar of tennis,” he said.

The Davis Cup finals will be played in a new week-long 18-nation World Cup-style format in Madrid in November.

Matches will consist of two singles and one doubles rubber, and the six group winners, plus the best two second-placed teams – based on sets, games and points won – will qualify for the knockout phase.

In addition to Federer, 32-year-old Pique has also faced criticism from Australia’s Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt.

“We’re getting run by a Spanish football player. That’s like me coming out and making changes to the Champions League,” Hewitt said in January. “It’s ridiculous. He knows nothing about tennis.”

At last year’s US Open, Federer said it was a “bit odd to see a footballer arrive and meddle in the tennis business” and warned “the Davis Cup should not become the Pique Cup”.

Speaking to BBC Sport in Madrid, Pique said: “I think people who use this name, it is because they didn’t understand the change of the competition and why we are doing this. I think we have to prove that they are wrong.

“Obviously I will not be the one organising the competition and we will not be changing any laws of tennis. What we are trying to do is helping the ITF (International Tennis Federation) create a much better event.”

Could men and women play in one event?

The Davis Cup, which was founded in 1900, is one of the world’s largest international team competitions with 132 nations taking part in 2018.

Sixteen nations previously competed in the World Group in a straight knockout, with one of the nations hosting the tie.

An increasing number of top players have skipped matches in recent years to ease their schedule.

There may be more change coming with Pique also suggesting the Davis Cup and women’s Fed Cup finals could become a combined event “in the close future”.

“For sure, it’s an option that can be a reality,” he said.

“It’s something we were discussing (with the ATP) in November and they were open to hearing about it.”

The Finals are likely to move to Indian Wells in California from 2021, and a switch to April is also being considered.

Several players, including Alexander Zverev and Tomas Berdych, have criticised the new-look Davis Cup’s November staging but Pique is confident he can win them over.

“I’m positive about it. It will be very difficult to convince everyone the first year, but our idea is that this is a long way to go,” he said.

“We understand that we are new in this tennis world, and we want to respect everyone and how the calendar is structured right now.

“We don’t want to have any conflict whatsoever with any other part of tennis. We are proud that we are in November. We know that the players will be very tired. We pray that they will be fit.”

Further conflicts could arise with the new ATP Cup event set to take place in January 2020. World number one Novak Djokovic said in November that he thought two rival team events within six weeks would not be “good for the sport”.

Pique’s Barcelona play Lyon on Tuesday in the Champions League, but he says football is not the only topic of conversation in the La Liga giants’ dressing room.

“Leo Messi, for example, is a good fan of tennis,” he said. “And then we have Ivan Rakitic, who followed Croatia to winning the Davis Cup this last year.”

His team-mate Messi is also an investor in Kosmos, which has recently purchased FC Andorra, a team currently competing in the fifth tier of Spanish football.

“He is part of the company. We are part of a club in Andorra, and he is part of that also,” said Pique.

“He doesn’t have much of a role. He likes to have his opinion and follow everything, but not in a major position.

“But it’s very exciting for me to have him because I know him since I was 13 years old. I am very proud that he is happy to be part of this.” -bbc