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ATP Cup observations — the bloated gathering

Matt Zemek

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Aaron Doster -- USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to like about the ATP Cup. One can also hate the new Davis Cup format (excuse me, Pique Cup format) and still note that the event stirred the passions and created the kind of emotion-soaked theater tennis fans had come to expect from the original Davis Cup before a footballer needlessly messed with a proven formula.

Long story short: These new Cups have something good to offer. These are not trash-bin concepts which should be tossed out of the sport. I do emphasize CONCEPTS, because there is a difference between a concept (international tennis in one gathering of many nations) and its applied reality.

The Pique Cup should go back to being Davis Cup. The ATP Cup is a little different in that it never claimed to be the new, better version of Davis Cup. It is trying to become its own entity in the tennis world.

If one was to make it better, I already suggested the event be moved to February so that it isn’t immediately preceding a major.

In this article, I offer another suggestion to the ATP Cup, which also applies to Pique Cup: Please reduce the size of your main events. It doesn’t have to be a large reduction; let’s keep it simple: Move to 16 participating nations.

The Pique Cup has 18, and the ATP Cup has 24 nations. Come on. Just do 16, like a normal person would.

A 16-team event contains an easy system of competition. The Pique Cup’s insistence on two extra teams created a far more complicated schedule. A 24-team event does the same.

With 16, one can do four groups of four or two groups of eight. Qualifying for quarterfinal berths isn’t nearly as tangled or complicated. Match schedules can be a lot more straightforward. Television can more easily cover and present the competitions.

The good concepts put forth by the ATP Cup (like Pique Cup) don’t need to be accompanied by unnecessary and weird formats. There is nothing great or essential about a 24-team tournament which gets lost in a move to 16. The same goes for 18 to 16.

If we were talking about a reduction of a 32-team event to 16, that could reasonably be seen as a large-scale change, but 24 to 16 doesn’t meet that standard since — if we were to imagine a 24-player tournament — eight players would either receive opening-round byes. A move from 24 to 16 creates balance and proportion. A move from 32 to 16 reduces a full round within a context of balance and proportion.

Don’t overthink it, tennis, with these Cups. 16 nations provide a clean and neat structure which helps an event (and TV, and players) on so many logistical levels. 24 or 18? We don’t need that. It’s a nuisance which lacks a valid reason for existing.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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