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Nishikori to miss Davis Cup, Murray critical of neutral final

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 16/1/17 Britain's Andy Murray serves during his Men's singles first round match against Ukraine's Illya Marchenko. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 16/1/17 Britain's Andy Murray serves during his Men's singles first round match against Ukraine's Illya Marchenko. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Kei Nishikori is the latest player to skip the Davis Cup because of the packed calendar, the Japanese confirming on Monday that he would be unavailable for his country's World Group opener against France following the Australian Open.

"I'm not playing because the schedule, it's gonna be too tight. Going to south America, Rio and Buenos Aires, and if I play Davis Cup, that's way too much for my body," the world number five told reporters after coming through a tough first round against Andrey Kuznetsov in Melbourne.

"So I just decided not to play."

Major changes to the Davis Cup are in the pipeline with International Tennis Federation (ITF) president David Haggerty last year unveiling a plan for a "final four" format to be played in a neutral venue.

Haggerty hopes to have the new hosting system in place by 2018, saying that it will increase the appeal of the event.

Other proposals, including reducing ties from three days to two days and matches from five sets to three sets will also be on the agenda at the ITF's annual meeting in August.

Changes cannot come soon enough for the world's top players who invariably have the most punishing schedules. Presently the Davis Cup World Group rounds take place immediately after Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

World number one Andy Murray, a stalwart for Britain while others such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have missed ties, has also demanded changes, but repeated his opposition to neutral venues on Monday.

"I think tennis needs a great team competition, Davis Cup has been there," Murray, who led Britain to the title against Belgium in Ghent in 2015, told reporters after opening his Australian Open campaign with victory over Illya Marchenko.

"I think almost everyone I know, in the media, all of the tennis players, everyone seems to be in agreement that the format needs to change.

"But I sat in a room with all of the guys on the player council, and nobody was for the neutral venue. There were many things discussed that could change the Davis Cup, we thought for the better. None of that's been done yet.

"The only thing that I think has been agreed is a neutral final, which I know many people think isn't a good idea.

"If the top players aren't playing, the event loses value. We'll see what happens in the next 18 months or so, see if there's anything we can do to make it better."

(Writing by Martyn Herman, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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