What next for IPTL after they fail to secure Serena & Federer in 2016?

 

By Ros Satar

  • Following the news of Serena Williams not joining the Singapore Slammers on their home leg, Roger Federer also confirmed as not joining the final leg for Indian Aces
  • ‘Current economic climate in India’ cited as the reason by founder Mahesh Bhupathi
SINGAPORE – As the troubled third edition of the IPTL starts in Singapore, the news that neither of their advertised marquee names Serena Williams and Roger Federer will join their respective teams was announced.

 

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The news that Serena Williams was not joining had already surfaced yesterday evening, but was confirmed with an official statement, adding Roger Federer to the list. The whole lead up to the IPTL this year has been riddled with issues with the roster only being announced with a little over a week left before the start of the league.

 


The Indian Aces had already been left red-faced after Eugenie Bouchard had failed to make it to the first leg as advertised. The women’s line-up has already been hammered and this leaves doubles specialist Sania Mirza to hold the fort for the Aces for the remainder of the season, already deeply reduced for this edition.

Surely this now throws the future of the IPTL into even deeper turmoil. The first year had garnered the interests of many of the top names in tennis, including Federer, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic. Rafael Nadal joined in the larger second edition, but with Djokovic pulling out, Murray opted back in to tie in already with his winter training base, and Stan Wawrinka also came in.

Now the only Top 5 player in the world is Kei Nishikori who turned out for the Japan Warriors on home turf, but to largely empty seats in the stadium.

The Philippines leg was dropped regarding player’s safety in the country, and while the Mavericks still have an owner, they are notably absent from this year’s roster. Also key to note is that while the UAE Royals are still in the thick of it in the current edition, they have no home dates in the reduced season, and will play all their matches without the ‘benefit’ of home support.

Fans who had bought up tickets based on the announcements regarding Williams and Federer took to twitter to voice their disappointment.

 

2016 Team Rosters – REVISED

  • Japan Warriors: Kei Nishikori, Fernando Verdasco, Kurumi Nara, Jelena Jankovic, Fernando Gonzalez, Marat Safin, Jean-Julien Rojer
  • UAE Royals: Tomas Berdych, Pablo Cuevas, Ana Ivanovic, Martina Hingis, Goran Ivanisevic, Thomas Johansson, Daniel Nestor
  • OUE Singapore Slammers: Serena Williams, Nick Kyrgios, Marcos Baghdatis, Kiki Bertens, Carlos Moya, Rainer Schuettler, Marcelo Melo
  • Indian Aces: Roger Federer, Feliciano Lopez, Ivan Dodig, Eugenie Bouchard, Thomas Enqvist, Mark Philippoussis, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna

 

So what next?

Not everyone has a negative view of the exhibition – Australia’s Nick Kyrgios enjoyed entertaining the fans in Tokyo, and speaking to the IPTL World website, he said:

“It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I made a lot of friends at this event and you always play with different people. Being in a team environment makes the difference. For me it’s just more natural, I enjoy it more.”

“Even at the start of the year I am already thinking about the IPTL. I just love the format, I always look forward to this event, as I said, because of its team environment. It’s a great balance of fun training and also playing.”

Kyrgios had a turbulent year, but he seemed to excel at the showmanship aspect of the matches, especially when partnered with Serena Williams in the mixed doubles.

In the first year, many players had planned it in as part of their training programme but the schedule was a lot fuller with players opting in and out of various legs.

 

So what are the options?

  • The format ends this year perhaps denying countries with few or no scheduled tournaments during the year a chance to see some of the world’s current and past best in action in a more relaxed environment
  • The format continues on this far reduced schedule but it has to be said the marketing around this edition was hit by the financial challenges the overall programme faced only really winding into gear with a little over a week before the start of the tournament.

Can Bhupathi find a way to inject some faith in the tours’ big hitters in 2017? It is beginning to look unlikely.

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