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Defending champion Croatia to face Spain in new Davis Cup

MADRID (AP) — Defending champion Croatia will meet Rafael Nadal's Spain in the first edition of the revamped Davis Cup Finals in November. Russia also was drawn into the same three-nation group for the inaugural 18-team tournament that will be played in Madrid.

Thursday's draw for the six groups also pitted the United States against Italy and Canada, while France — a finalist the last two years — will play against Japan and Serbia, which is likely to be without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, a critic of the tournament's new format.

The revamped competition was developed in a partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos, an investment group founded by Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique. Pique said Nadal has already committed to the new tournament, but it remains unclear which other top players will participate. Djokovic said the competition would conflict with the ATP Cup, a newly created team competition. Roger Federer had also said he did not intend to play if Switzerland had qualified.

The ITF said players will compete for prize money that will rival what is offered in Grand Slams. The federation said it reached the 25-year deal with Kosmos to help increase revenue related to the Davis Cup, which used to be played at varied sites over four weekends throughout the year.

"It's innovation and it's also keeping tradition," ITF president David Haggerty said. "Where we are going with the Davis Cup is really just going to elevate it and make it better." The six group-winners will advance to the knockout stage, along with the two-best second-place teams.

The nations will play within their groups Monday-Thursday, with the knockout rounds Friday-Sunday. The matches will take place in three stadiums in morning and afternoon sessions. Each session will include two singles matches and a doubles match between two nations.

"It will be a tennis festival," Pique said. "From the first day to the last, we want Madrid to breathe tennis." The matches will be played on hard courts at the Magic Box complex, which already hosts the Madrid Masters.

The seeded teams entering the draw were France, Croatia, Argentina, Belgium, Britain and the United States. Twelve teams made it to the finals through the qualifying round earlier this month. Last year's Davis Cup semifinalists — Croatia, France, Spain and the U.S. — were already given spots in the finals. Britain and Argentina were given wild-card berths.

GROUP A

France, Serbia, Japan

GROUP B: Croatia, Spain, Russia

GROUP C: Argentina, Germany, Chile

GROUP D: Belgium, Australia, Colombia

GROUP E: Britain, Kazakhstan, Netherlands

GROUP F: United States, Italy, Canada

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