Following a series of withdrawals from the competition, including that of world number one Novak Djokovic, the third edition of the ATP Cup has been subject to unexpected changes to its original schedule.
Early in December, the championship organizers announced a field comprising 16 qualified countries - instead of the 12 featured in the previous edition, divided into four groups of four, at the official tournament draw, to battle to lift the title on 9 January.
However, players’ retirement, mainly due to positive Covid-19 test results, altered the initial program.
Placed in Group B alongside Russia, Italy, and host nation, wild card Australia, Austria got replaced by France after World No. 15 Dominic Thiem issued a statement-making official his retirement from the event and Sydney Tennis Classic by mid-December.
“Unfortunately, I caught a cold (and tested negative for Covid-19) while in Dubai and was unable to practice last week. I will, therefore, not be in the physical condition required to be able to play the ATP Cup and Sydney ATP 250,” Thiem said.
On Tuesday, the former world number three pulled out from the first major of the season, the Australian Open outlining: “After the short holidays, my team and I have assessed all matters, and we have decided to make some changes to my initial tournament schedule: I will start the season in South America at the Cordoba Open in Argentina, end of January, and therefore I will not play this year at the Australian Open in Melbourne.”
For his part, countryman Dennis Novak also pulled out from the ATP Cup, unable to travel to Australia due to health reasons.
As the event establishes, at least one player per nation must be among the top 250 in the individual, resulting in Austria losing its spot in the tournament.
Replacing Austria, the Frenchmen team enters the competition, led by 2021 Terra Wortmann Open champion (Halle) Ugo Humbert.
World No. 42 Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Arthur Rinderknecht, and Fabrice Martin will join the 23-year-old in Sydney, all guided by captain Nicolas Copin.
Moreover, on Wednesday, organizers officially confirmed world number one, Novak Djokovic, will not play at the ATP Cup. Team Serbia will therefore be represented by World No. 33 Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, Nikola Cacic, Matej Sabanov, and captain Ivan Sabanov.
The inaugural singles champions (2020) landed in Group A with Spain, Norway, and Chile.
Furthermore, reigning champions, Team Russia, led by world number two Daniil Medvedev, have also missed a major figure ahead of the group event.
World number five Andrey Rublev is currently self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus following his appearance at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship - which he won, an exhibition event held in Abu Dhabi in December.
“I am currently in Barcelona, and unfortunately, I have tested positive for Covid-19,” he wrote on his social media channels.
“I have minimal symptoms. I am isolating and respecting all the protocols under the supervision of the doctors. As you know, I am fully vaccinated and was preparing for tournaments - ATP Cup and Australian Open.
“Now I have to recover, and I will go to Melbourne only when it will be safe for everyone.”
Emma Raducanu, scheduled to play in Abu Dhabi for the first time in her career, captured the virus upon arrival, being replaced by Jabeur.
The mission to try to win back-to-back titles now relies on the hands of Medvedev, Roman Safiullin, and Evgeny Karlovskiy, guided by Gilles Cervara.
According to the rules, each tie comprises two singles matches and one doubles match. The No. 2 singles players compete against each other before the No. 1 singles, followed by doubles. The top-performing teams in each of the four groups advance to the knockout semifinals.
The 2022 ATP Cup runs from January 1-9 at the Ken Rosewall Arena and Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Olympic Park in Australia.