by Simon Cambers
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eight former world number ones, including Americans John McEnroe and Pete Sampras and Swedes Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg, are to square off against each other in a new Ryder Cup-style competition.
Called the Kings Cup, "Team America", led by captain Roy Emerson, the Australian who won 12 grand-slam titles, will take on "Team Europe", led by Romanian Ilie Nastase, over three days in Malaysia this November in a singles and doubles format.
"Let's just say I'm glad that Sampras is on my team," McEnroe, who topped the rankings for 170 weeks, told reporters at the competition's launch in New York on Thursday.
"For us it's a great concept. "Kings of Tennis" sounds awful nice to us because slowly but surely we're becoming legends in our own minds, so the fact that we're going to be going to Malaysia and treated as kings is quite exciting." "It's easy to say yes to this kind of thing. To get together with a very small group of people who you have mutual respect for because of what we were able to accomplish - there are not a lot of people who can say that."
Borg, who was number one for 109 weeks, will be joined by fellow Swedes Edberg, Wilander and an as-yet unnamed wildcard for the inaugural event, which will be held annually.
"I'm delighted to play with these guys once again and to play with John - everyone knows the matches we had in the past," Borg said.
"I believe this could be a very big thing in the future. Just to get all the number ones together in the same place has never happened before, so it's going to be a lot of fun.
"Stefan is playing a lot. Mats too, and the same with me. We play because we enjoy playing, but you have to be in good shape otherwise there is no point. For us Swedes, we are looking forward to it."
Chilean Marcelo Rios, the only men's number one to have never won a grand-slam event, will join McEnroe, Sampras and one wildcard in the Team America side.
"I think there really is a place for the team tennis format," McEnroe said. "The team tennis format would be a very interesting format for the Olympics, for example."
In the 35 years since the inception of the world rankings, only 24 men have had the distinction of being world number one.
Tournament organisers said that in future years, other members of the 24-strong number one gang are expected to take part.
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