Fed Cup: New finals tournament to be held on clay in Hungary in 2020

RAC Arena in Perth, Australia
The 2019 Fed Cup final will be played at the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia on 9-10 November

A brand new 12-team Fed Cup Finals will take place on clay in Budapest in Hungary, in April of next year.

As BBC Sport reported in March, 20 teams will have the chance to be crowned world champions each year, with eight qualifying ties taking place in February.

The winners of those ties will join this year's finalists Australia and France, hosts Hungary and one wildcard nation in the inaugural Finals.

There is an $18m (£14.2m) prize fund.

Of that, $12m (£9.5m) will go to the players, and the other $6m (£4.75m) to their national associations.

Not everyone is happy with the new format though, with former world number one and French Open champion Simona Halep saying she "won't play any more".

"To play home and away is the best feeling," she said in Eastbourne this week.

"Away, you have to manage the emotions and the pressures. If the Fed Cup is going to change, I won't play any more because I like the format that it is now. I love it actually. So if there is a change, it will be tough to play."

Under the current format, the champions need to negotiate three home or away ties. From next year, they will play no more than one.

Billie Jean King won the competition eight times as either a player or captain. Now a global ambassador for the Fed Cup, she had this response to Halep in an interview for BBC Sport.

"First of all you have to think beyond yourself," King said.

"I'd ask her - would you rather have 5,000 people watching you, or 23,000? What's better for the sport? I don't think there's any question this new format has the potential to be more successful for our sport."

Great Britain will contest a five-match qualifying tie at the end of the first week of February, having secured promotion to the World Group by beating Kazakhstan in London in April.

Potential opponents then include Japan, Romania, the United States, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic.

If Anne Keothavong's side are successful, they will feature in the Finals at the Laszlo Papp Budapest Sports Arena from 14-19 April.

The multi-purpose indoor complex, which is named after Hungary's triple Olympic boxing gold medallist, will stage the Finals until 2022.

The GB Fed Cup team
The GB Fed Cup team danced around in celebration after Katie Boulter sealed victory

Ties will consist of two singles matches, and one doubles. There will be four groups of three teams, with the winners of each group progressing to the semi-finals.

The WTA were keen for the Finals to be played on clay, as the event is sandwiched between two important clay court events in Charleston and Stuttgart.

The Fed Cup, which was founded in 1963, is the largest annual international team competition in women's sport.

The Davis Cup - the men's equivalent team competition - has already undergone significant reform.

A $3bn (£2.4bn) 25-year partnership has been agreed with Kosmos, the investment group founded by the Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.

This November, 18 teams will compete for the title and $20m (£15.8m) of prize money in the inaugural finals in Madrid.

There will be some eye-watering sums on offer for the women, too. Each team will share $500,000 just for reaching the Finals, with the winning team dividing $3.2m (£2.5m) between the players.

The International Tennis Federation, which runs the Fed Cup, is also promising an additional $4.9m (£3.9m) for nations competing below the elite level of the competition.

Questions about the financial viability of the event remain, but ITF President David Haggerty says Budapest might even make a profit.

"It's government funding, as well as local sponsorship," Haggerty told BBC Sport.

"The government has made a decree and set this money aside. There are ways that they will be able to break even or perhaps make a profit.

"But I think it's bigger than that. I think that Budapest is one of the top three sport capitals in the world: sport is important to their culture, and what they do. They have ambitions as we know from the Olympics (bid) in the past."