The ATP Cup's success comes at a price

Darren Walton
The inaugural ATP Cup has proven somewhat of a hit, but there have also been some growing pains

For all the success of the inaugural ATP Cup, Lleyton Hewitt acknowledges there's a hole in the new-look summer calendar for tennis' middle-class players.

The ATP Cup appears here to stay with most of the sport's biggest names buying in, $22 million prize money, and precious rankings points up for grabs.

Fans have flocked to see the likes of world No.1 Rafael Nadal and 2019 US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev in Perth, seven-times Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and Australia's top guns Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur in Brisbane, and now Sydney.

Nadal, Djokovic and Kyrgios and de Minaur lighting up the finals has also played a major part in the ATP Cup proving a big hit.

Djokovic was overwhelmed by fanatical Serbian fans riding his every shot, while Kyrgios and de Minaur have grown extra legs wearing the green and gold.

"Players want to play for their country. There is no doubt about that," said Hewitt, the Australian captain.

"Tennis is such an individual sport throughout the year. So for these guys to get the opportunity to play for their country, yeah, it's pretty special.

"I said before we started this event we are very fortunate and lucky that it's in our backyard, and we get the opportunity to play as a team for our country.

"We feel privileged to be able to do that. For these boys to play in front of packed stadiums in Brisbane and now Sydney, it's an unbelievable feeling for these guys leading into the Australian Open a couple of weeks away.

"Everyone's laid it on the line out there.

"I think everyone has prepared as well as possible. It's been great."

Tennis Australia's head of performance Wally Masur believes it was a masterstroke from TA chief executive Craig Tiley to reshape the calendar.

He believes no other country could host the event and draw such spirited fan support than multi-cultural Australia.

However there has been a price to pay.

There's been discontentment in the women's ranks after Australia's world No.1 Ashleigh Barty and a raft of other grand slam champions had to play second fiddle to the ATP Cup in Brisbane.

The Cup's introduction also led to the demise of men's regular tour events in Sydney and Brisbane, denying players who didn't qualify for the prestigious teams' tournament of desperately needed match practice before the Open.

Adelaide is hosting a new men's event, but that still leaves the tour down one tournament and forced ATP regulars to Bendigo for a third-tier Challenger this week that was moved from Canberra due to the bushfire crisis.

Bendigo top seed Ugo Humbert is ranked 56th in the world, extraordinarily high for a Challenger.

"It's tough," Hewitt said when asked by AAP if there was a solution.

"I've spent a lot of time talking to those slightly, not-as-high-ranked players.

"We've got quite a few in Australia who would have got opportunities to play qualies in Brisbane and these kind of events in the past.

"The quality of players - (veteran Phillip) Kohlschreiber and these guys are playing in these Challengers - that's like nearly a 250 event.

"So at least they're getting matches. That's important.

"The guys that are getting wildcards into the Australian Open will get an opportunity to play in Adelaide, either in qualies or main draw, so there's still opportunities.

"But I can understand how this has changed everything."