Indian doubles star and entrepreneur Mahesh Bhupathi has confirmed four cities which will host the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) at the end of the 2014 season.
The first-of-its-kind Asian tennis league, which is based on the blueprint of Twenty20 cricket and the Indian Premier League with franchised teams, is designed to grow the presence of tennis in Australasia.
Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Mumbai will have teams, as well as a team in the Middle East yet to be announced.
Players who have signed up for the event, which will take place from November 28 to December 20, are yet to be announced but will feature current stars, both men and women, as well as legends of the game. Australian player Lleyton Hewitt has publicly given his support to the initiative.
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”.
Positioned as it is in the off-season, Hewitt believes the league will provide players with the opportunity to get some match play and is attracted to the idea of playing alongside legends in the team format.
“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 said. “I love playing in a team environment. I enjoy that. Travelling around and playing within that timeframe fits in well with me.”
Bhupathi says there will be either five or six teams for the 2014 edition. Each team will consist of between six and 10 players and will have a US$10 million budget to spend at the player draft as well as a minimum salary budget of US$4 million. The target is to have 10 teams by 2020 and to include China, but there are no Chinese cities on board at this stage.
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, with a tie-break at 5-All. The winning team is the one that wins the most number of games, not the most number of sets. Each team will play home and away. The playing surface will be the same as for the Australian Open. Players could elect to play a home tie only.
“This is something that tennis needs,” said Boris Becker, co-founder of the IPTL. “Back in my time we would have loved to have a series of tournaments in Asia, where the demand for world-class tennis as an entertainment concept merges with the needs and wishes of millions of fans.”
Morgan Menahem, IPTL chief executive has confirmed that international TV rights agency MP and Silva, which holds part of the television rights for 2014 FIFA World Cup, the English Premier League and Roland Garros amongst other globally prominent sporting events, has acquired the rights to the IPTL and will be distributing the images of the league on a world wide platform.
With each city scheduled to make its own announcements over the coming weeks, more information will become available, and the player draft will be held in Dubai on March 2.