International Premier Tennis League set to launch in November 2014
Originally published on 22/01/14
The aim of the league is to grow the presence of Tennis in Australasia and it is a country based franchised league involving not only current men’s and women’s players but also the legends of the game. It is in essence the tennis equivalent of Twenty20 cricket.
Cities hosting teams are Singapore, Kuala Lumpar, Bangkok and Mumbai and a team in the Middle East. Players who have signed up for the event , which will take place from November 28 to December 20, have yet to be announced. Australian player, Lleyton Hewitt is however, one top-level player who has publicly given his support to the initiative.
Talking at a recent press conference, Hewitt said, “There’s a lot of player interest. I think that’s the best part about it. I think there’s gong to be a very high quality player field involved”. Hewitt also believes that, positioned as it is in the off-season the league will provide players with the opportunity to get some match play.
”The guys get great hit outs against quality players but not quite as demanding because you don’t have to play full sets as well.” He is also attracted to the idea of playing alongside legends and the team format adding, ”I love playing in a team environment. I enjoy that. Travelling around and playing within that timeframe fits in well with me.”
The format of the IPTL is that each team has a minimum of six players, and a maximum of eight. Each team has a budget to spend on players of US$10 million and a salary minimum of US $4 million. It is expected that at the start there will be a minimum of five teams, maximum of six. The target is to have 10 teams by 2020 and some Chinese cities, although Bhupathi revealed that there are no Chinese cities on board at this stage.
The players will be a mix of current players, legends and “future of tennis” stars. Matches consist of five sets, men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, women’s doubles and legends singles. The home team gets to pick the order on the night of the match. Scoring is one set, no-ad, tie-breaker at 5-All. The winning team is the one that wins the most number of games (not the most number of sets). Each team plays home and away.
The playing surface will be the same as for the Australian Open. Players could elect to play a home tie only. One of the reasons for creating this is, according to Bhupathi is that nothing in the sport changes within the confines of the Grand Slams, but IPTL satisfies a demand he has identified.
“I think the youth of this world are looking for something fun and innovative,” he said. “I think this format brings the biggest stars in the world, creating something new and fresh for tennis”. Broadcast rights are with MP and Silva, with more detail to be announced in the next two weeks. There are still many questions to be answered around the creation of the ITPL but with each city scheduled to make their own announcements over the coming weeks, more of these will be answered.
Bhupathi says the ITF, ATP and WTA are aware of the plans and they have been in constant communication for the last 18 months. With the kind of freedom Bhupathi and the IPTL have they have been able to go outside the restrictions imposed on ATP, WTA and ITF to find what he calls “the best markets for tennis” and he added, ”There is no doubt that Asia is a growing market.”
One of the key considerations will be which players sign up for the league given there have previously been so many calls for a shorter tennis calendar. It seems many players, if they are prepared to travel some more, will now have time to take part in this innovative new tennis league. The player field is due to be announced in the next two weeks.