ATP Cup in Australia marks the start of a new era in tennis
Championship aims to push team events to the forefront
A new team championship in Australia kicks off the men's 2020 tennis season on Friday, with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic among those looking for a winning start.
The ATP Cup sees 24 nations split into six groups across three Australian cities, with eight teams emerging from the round-robin to compete in a knockout phase until one country is left standing.
It is the sport's newest tournament and the third men's team event trying to grab the attention of fans, along with a revamped Davis Cup and the annual Laver Cup.
But it has already suffered setbacks, with Roger Federer opting to give it a miss and Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori pulling out injured.
Despite this, world No2 Djokovic said the move towards more team tennis was good for a sport best known for the individuality of its global superstars.
"More than 90 percent of the time, we're playing as individuals and we don't have too many team events," said the Serbian great, who also heads the ATP player council.
"This is going to bring together a lot of nations and, for me personally, it will be a very nice and proud moment to represent my country. An event like this is truly going to make an impact."
Sydney hosts the finals, along with group games, which will also held in Brisbane and Perth with $15 million (Dh55m) in prize money and up to 750 singles and 250 doubles ATP rankings points at stake.
Australian star Nick Kyrgios agrees with Djokovic, believing it will be "an awesome event".
"I know everyone on the Tour wants to be with their teammates. There's nothing better than playing for your country against the other best players in the world," he said.
While Federer, Nishikori and Murray are missing, most of the world's top 30 are playing.
With bushfires raging around Sydney and elsewhere in the country, tournament director Tom Larner said officials were ready in the event of air quality problems.
"We have got medical experts on site during the tournament who will be advising in relation to conditions and ensuring that it is safe for players to play and also safe for our fans and our ball boys and staff," he said.
The championship will feature two ties each day in the three cities during the round robin, comprising two singles matches then a doubles. Belgium kick off the Sydney action against Moldova before Britain face Bulgaria.
Updated: January 1, 2020 06:01 PM