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Djokovic, Murray and Nadal set to pique interest in the new-look Davis Cup

Djokovic, Murray and Nadal set to pique interest in the new-look Davis Cup

15/11/2019 at 21:19Updated 16/11/2019 at 09:47

It is no understatement to suggest that 2019's restructure of the Davis Cup has been controversial in the tennis world - but it is certain that the tournament kicks off a new era.

For the first time, the finale of the men's tennis season will not be a five-rubber tie between two teams who have battled it out throughout the year to reach the Davis Cup final, but a week-long, 18-team competition.

The driving force behind the changes has been Barcelona defender Gerard Pique's company Kosmos and the perceived interference from another sport has been a sticking point.

At the 2018 US Open, Roger Federer said it was "bit odd to see a footballer arrive and meddle in the tennis business" and warned "the Davis Cup should not become the Pique Cup".

Lleyton Hewitt, who won the event twice in his career, went even further, saying: "We're getting run by a Spanish football player. That's like me coming out and making changes to the Champions League. It's ridiculous. He knows nothing about tennis."

Gerard Pique, Davis Cup Finals

Gerard Pique, Davis Cup FinalsGetty Images

But despite the consternation the competition's changes have brought, there is still set to be plenty of star quality on show at Madrid's Caja Magica next week. Federer may be absent but Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will be in attendance, as will their fellow ATP Finals competitor Daniil Medvedev.

Andy Murray will also be bidding to add to his 2015 Davis Cup title as he looks to rebuild fitness. For Hewitt's part, he will be captaining the Australia team, which features Nick Kyrgios.

While this is ostensibly a 'new' competition, given its radical change in format, Croatia will enter the Spanish capital as the defending champions. With Marin Cilic's experience and Borna Coric's penchant for causing an upset, they cannot be discounted as competitors to retain their title.

The pre-tournament favourites, however, will be the hosts. With Nadal having secured the year-end No.1 spot in the ATP Rankings and having put his Paris Masters injury behind him, he produced a classic comeback to beat Alexander Zverev in London this week. Ably backed by Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers, Spain will fancy their chances of victory.

Murray will be feeling more confident on court after winning the European Open in Antwerp and there is no doubting his partnership with brother Jamie but, given how little tennis he has played since making his comeback, it would be wrong to expect him to carry his team to the title as he did in 2015.

Then there's Serbia. Though his form dipped after a lightning start to the ATP Finals, Novak Djokovic has been at his best in the tail end of this season after his US Open disappointment. If he is to help his country to go all the way as he did in 2010, he is likely to need to excel in both singles and doubles, though he has Viktor Troicki alongside him once more, as he did nine years ago.

It would be foolish to rule out France for the championship as well. Though their best days may be behind them, the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils are canny competitors and have Benoit Paire alongside them. In the form of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, they have two bona fide doubles specialists as well.

Russia could also be dark horses to end a 13-year wait for the title. In Daniil Medvedev, they have one of the game's rising stars, now a Grand Slam finalist who has proved himself to be capable of beating the best players in the world. Another youngster with a bright future ahead of him is Karen Khachanov and the two could form a combination capable of beating any of the teams on show.