It’s not just the current elite players on the ATP Tour who are kicking off next season at the ATP Cup. A bevy of legends in the game will also make their way to Brisbane, Perth and Sydney from 3-12 January. serving as team captains after being selected by the top players from their countries in the ATP Rankings.
Boris Becker (chosen by Alexander Zverev) will lead Germany, Marat Safin (chosen by Daniil Medvedev) is guiding Russia and Thomas Muster (chosen by Dominic Thiem) seeks to bring Austria to the title. Germany is in Brisbane’s Group F alongside Greece, Canada and Australia; Russia appears in Perth’s Group D with Italy, Norway and the United States; Austria joins Croatia, Argentina and Poland in Sydney’s Group E.
The trio of former No. 1 players in the ATP Rankings spoke on Wednesday at the Nitto ATP Finals and were all excited that many of the matches taking place at The O2 could be reprised in the first week of the season.
“I think there is no greater way to get ready for the season than to play against the very best. Great competitors need each other to play better and practise even harder,” Becker said. “Playing against the very best and representing your country sets the tone, sets the sport. I think we're going to see amazing tennis.”
Safin always represented Russia with pride during his playing career and continued to make history for his country in retirement, becoming the first Russian to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2016. He enjoyed plenty of success in Australia as a player, including winning the 2005 Australian Open, and hopes to build the same track record as a captain. He feels that the unique format of the ATP Cup will serve as ideal preparation for players to kick off their season.
“You are guaranteed three matches, plus you have two groups that are playing in the same spot. So you have a chance to practise your [butt] off day and night and get ready for the beginning of the season,” Safin said. “All the guys are already in Australia and they want to start with a good step in the new year… The guys are pumped, so let’s see how it goes.”
But it’s not only the volume of matches that will give players a boost at the beginning of the season. A player who goes undefeated in the event could earn 750 ATP Rankings points, which is more points up for grabs leading into the Australian Open than ever before in ATP Tour history.
“I think it's a great opportunity because you are playing for [ATP Rankings] points, you are playing for your country, you are playing for prize money,” said Muster.