By Ros Satar
- With a little over a week to go before the first matches on the schedule, the Team Rosters and reduced schedules are announced.
- Just two Top 5 names are in the frame this year – stark contrast to first two years
- Teams also reduced to four as Philippine Mavericks are not taking part
HYDERABAD, INDIA – Amidst concern about the complete lack of information about the forthcoming series of exhibition matches, the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) has finally announced its 2016 schedule and team rosters.
Has the shine gone from the IPTL?
Gone are one of the original franchises – the Philippine Mavericks, and there are no dates for the UAE Royals at home. Hyderabad will host the third leg and finals of the third season of the IPTL, with the four remaining teams battling for the title and, of course, the prize money.
In 2014 the IPTL catapulted itself into the tennis calendar with much fanfare and bolstered with iconic names including Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova (their mixed doubles was legendary viewing – although not always in a good way!), Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The schedule started comparatively soon after the official season ended running from November 28 to December 13 offering men’s and women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and past champion’s singles. It garnered a lot of curiosity in first year, but even then questions were asked whether it would have the same pull in 2015.
The following year saw Rafael Nadal join the fray and after Djokovic pulled out, Murray came back in along with Stan Wawrinka. The format also grew with another team – the introduction of Japan Warriors. This time around the entire season was wrapped up in the month of December.
But as the regular season ground to a close this year, the lack of information gave rise to speculation that the season would not go ahead, promptly countered with advertisements on social media starting to promote the schedule in Singapore, and messages on social media from players confirming their participation.
On the men’s side though only Kei Nishikori is the icon/Top 5 player, with Williams on the women’s side. However with a little over a week to go before the first matches are played, with the theme music for Jaws playing over the shot-clock, there is a feeling that the format may be a goner.
In an announcement on the IPTL World website, the focus was very much on Hyderabad replacing New Delhi as the site for the third leg of the league and the final, rather than the length of time it has taken to finalise both the schedule and the players.
IPTL founder and promoter Mahesh Bhupathi was quoted as being emotional, as he said: “This season required us to make some difficult choices and we have worked hard to bring Season 2016 to life across three host cities. The first two legs will be in Tokyo and Singapore before we culminate in Hyderabad.
“We are deeply grateful to our sponsors, partners, broadcasters and, in particular, the participating players for their deep belief in the potential the IPTL holds to deliver exceptional value to all stakeholders. This has significantly strengthened the IPTL proposition as well as our resolve to continue to grow this property for the benefit of this sport that I Iove.”
It remains to be seen how many editions will attract Top 5 names going forward.
2016 Team Rosters
- 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: Feliciano Lopez, Ivan Dodig, Eugenie Bouchard, Thomas Enqvist, Mark Philippoussis, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna
- Japan 2-4 December
- Singapore, 6-8 December
- India, 9-11 December (includes final).
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