Sydney (AFP)

With Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the ATP Cup, the latest in team competitions, launches the men's tennis season in Australia on Friday, where the organizers are closely monitoring the progress of the fires and their impact on air quality .

Sydney (south-east), which will host group matches like Brisbane (east) and Perth (west) then all the final stages until January 12, has lived for weeks in an atmosphere polluted by a cloud of toxic smoke linked devastating fires raging around the country's largest city.

But the organizers assure that all precautions will be taken.

"We have medical experts on site who will advise us based on the conditions and make sure they are healthy for the players, but also for the spectators, the ball pickers and our teams," said the tournament director. Tom Larner to reporters.

The ATP Cup, which succeeds the World Team Cup organized by the ATP from 1978 to 2012, brings together 24 national teams divided into six groups during the first phase, followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, with two singles and a double per match disputed at the best of three sets.

The first of the six groups and the two best second runners-up will go into quarters.

The formula is much the same as the new Davis Cup formula organized by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in Madrid last November but, notable difference, the competition brings back ATP points (750 points in singles for the winners), in addition to substantial gains ($ 15 million, or approximately EUR 13.5 million).

Despite the absence of Roger Federer (family reasons), Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori (injured), the main players responded, starting with the first two world champions Nadal and Djokovic, just over two weeks before the Open from Australia, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

"Over 90 percent of the time, we play individually and we don't have a lot of team competitions (...) I am proud to represent my country. An event like this will have a real impact", declared the world Serbian N.2, who like Nadal spoke in favor of a merger of the ATP Cup and the Davis Cup.

"Everyone on the circuit wants to play with their teammates, said Australian Nick Kyrgios. There is nothing better than playing for your country against the best players in the world."

Composition of the groups:

Group A (Brisbane): Serbia, France, South Africa, Chile

Group B (Perth): Spain, Japan, Georgia, Uruguay

Group C (Sydney): Bulgaria, Belgium, Great Britain, Moldova

Group D (Perth): Russia, Italy, United States, Norway

Group E (Sydney): Austria, Croatia, Argentina, Poland

Group F (Brisbane): Germany, Greece, Canada, Australia

Competition program

Group stage from Friday 3 to Wednesday 8 January

Quarter-finals Thursday January 9 and Friday January 10 in Sydney

Semifinals Saturday January 11 in Sydney

Final Sunday January 12 in Sydney

© 2020 AFP