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When will the World Cup of Tennis exist?

Matt Zemek

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports

Billie Jean King was clear on a recent Racquet Magazine podcast: She wants to see a co-ed World Cup of Tennis.

King, who developed World Team Tennis with her then-husband Larry, said a lot in the podcast linked to above about the need to develop tennis within a team structure and a team concept.

Part of the appeal for team-based tennis is the involvement and inclusion of all tennis disciplines — singles, doubles and mixed — which develops a fuller range of skills. Another part of the puzzle is television: Being able to show teams of players interacting and emoting on one court centralizes a tennis experience in a way which is friendly for television. Having vibrant personalities can create a highly compelling product for TV viewers and on-site fans.

Another selling point for team-oriented tennis, especially with women and men being on the same team: Tennis can further capitalize on its identity as a sport where women and men play at the same tournament. Yes, women and men don’t play together in tournaments except for mixed doubles, but a team-oriented tennis event can make the coexistence of men’s and women’s tours more profound for a global audience of fans. Hopman Cup was a very popular event. Naturally, tennis replaced it. Yet, it remains that Hopman Cup was very appealing, and King’s idea of a World Cup of Tennis naturally makes all the sense in the world.

If there is a Pique Cup, a Laver Cup, and an ATP Cup (the ATP event which will take the place of the Hopman Cup next year in Australia), why shouldn’t there be either — as King wants — an integrated dual-gender World Cup, or at least a women’s equivalent of Laver Cup?

This is an example of the uneasy relationship between the desire for change and the desire for consistency in the tennis industry. Creating a World Cup (dual-gender) or a women’s equivalent of the Laver Cup might feel like forced change — “change for the mere sake of change, or change for the mere sake of doing something and trying to artificially engineer balance” — but with so many men’s Cups proliferating, it is impossible to avoid noticing that women’s tennis hasn’t yet made a big step into this particular space.

Tennis is waiting — yearning — for a women’s event which can capitalize on the large number of high-quality WTA players on tour in 2019. Shouldn’t the sport want to showcase these players and, as a result, create matches and (beyond the matches themselves) interactions which will raise the profile of the women’s game?

Yes, Billie Jean King would prefer a Hopman-style integrated World Cup of Tennis. That might be where most fans would like to go in the 2020s and beyond. The desire for a women’s Laver Cup might be a minority position compared to a World Cup of Tennis.

Can we at least get one of these two events started? It seems that the time has come for the WTA to gain a piece of the pie… and drink from the Cup of newly designed international team competitions.

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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