As expected, tournament organizer Tennis Australia has announced a number of changes for the 2024 United Cup, to be held from 29 December to 7 January.
While 18 nations will still compete for the WTA/ATP Mixed teams trophy, ties will now consist of only three rubbers (a women’s singles, a men’s singles and a mixed doubles) and be completed on the same day.
This fundamental change in format from ties that were decided over five rubbers (two women’s singles, two men’s singles and a mixed doubles) spread across two days in this year’s inaugural United Cup is critical.
Streamlining the ties is likely to make more sense to the sport’s fans with the outcome being settled in a single day’s play. The change is also likely to reduce the chances of effectively dead rubbers being played. The previous format potentially saw ties decided after three rubbers, with two dead rubbers still remaining.
Interestingly, it also means the United Cup and the Hopman Cup, (a recently resurrected ITF mixed team event that ran in Perth from 1988 to 2019 and returned to the tour in France this July) now mirror each other in being decided over three-rubber ties. Whether these two events can happily co-exist will be a matter of conjecture within the tennis community.
Just as it was this year, the 2024 United Cup will be comprised of six groups of three teams participating in round robin play.
But in another major change, there will be only two host cities – Sydney and Perth – with Brisbane, the third host city this year, now ruled out due to the combined WTA 500/ATP 250 Brisbane International returning in January 2024 after a five-year hiatus.
The group winners in each city will advance to a knockout quarter final round with further quarter final spots to be awarded to the best runner up in each city.
The introduction of knockout quarter finals is a revision to the original format and represents a pathway for teams to reach the final weekend in Sydney.
In the 2023 version of the event, the six group winners were pitted against each other to reach the semi finals. The best performed loser from those ties joined the three winners in the semi finals.
Tennis Australia’s decision to now award quarter final places to the best second place teams in each city will increase the chances of every tie in the group stage remaining live. Spanish team member Rafael Nadal had raised the issue in January after Spain lost its opening tie and was already out of contention by the time it faced Australia in the final tie of the group stage.
The semi finals and final will be held at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney on the weekend of January 6–7.
Crucially, Tennis Australia has taken steps to alleviate the challenges of the Perth based teams who qualify for the semi finals having to fly approximately 3300 kilometres (2050 miles) to Sydney mid-event, as was the case last January.
The teams arriving from Perth will have an extra day of rest following their four-hour flight. To ensure this, the quarter final ties in Perth will be completed by 3 January, two days earlier than Sydney.
A maximum of 500 WTA and 500 Pepperstone ATP rankings points will again be on offer for players who choose to play the United Cup. Male players could have an opportunity to earn substantially more ranking points playing in the United Cup rather than the Brisbane International.
Even more significantly, the prize money for the United Cup is again the substantial amount of a minimum AUD $15 million. The Brisbane International’s prize money pool is a combined AUD $3.1 million between the WTA and ATP events.
Each team will consist of up to three female and three male players. (This year, teams were allowed a maximum of four women and four men.) The 18 teams will be selected based on assorted WTA and ATP rankings.
Twelve teams will automatically qualify according to the six highest ranked women and men’s players entered. The remaining six teams will qualify based on the best combined ranking of their highest ranked women’s and men’s players. Again, host Australia will be granted one of the 18 spots in the tournament as a wild card entry if it does not qualify through the rankings system.
The draw for the top 16 teams will be conducted on 23 October, with the final two teams announced on 20 November.
The 2024 United Cup will commence on 29 December at RAC Arena in Perth and group play in Sydney will start the following day. With the return of the Brisbane International, the Adelaide International 1 tournament that ran in the first week of the year for the past two years has been moved and consolidated into the combined WTA 500/ATP 250 Adelaide International.
The amended Adelaide event will take place the following week from 8–13 January, concurrently with the long-standing WTA 250 Hobart International, rounding out the Australian lead-in events to the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Team USA, led by Jessica Pegula, Madison Keys, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, won the 2023 United Cup in a commanding fashion. The Americans defeated Poland 5-0 in the semi final and Italy 4-0 in the final.
Title photo by Tennis Australia/James Gourley