In Focus | Dubai Tennis Championships

Tennis set to enter ‘franchise era’ on Sunday

Bhupathi terms IPTL player draft as dream come true

  • By Alaric Gomes,Senior Reporter
  • Published: 21:30 March 1, 2014
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP and Reuters
  • Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams

Dubai: Mahesh Bhupathi, India’s doubles specialist and co-founder of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), is excited to see his dream become a reality.

Some of the biggest names in the world of tennis including the top three men — Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray along with top women Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki — have confirmed in the player draft of 70-odd names that is scheduled to take off at the Oberoi Hotel situated off Shaikh Zayed Road on Sunday.

The players who have committed so far have been divided into seven different categories, namely the icon players, past champions, categories A, B, C and D and doubles players.

Nadal, Djokovic and Murray feature along with Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka and former champions Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi as part of the icon players for the men, while Williams, Azarenka and Wozniacki are the icon players among the women.

Even though Agassi and Sampras are among the prominent past champions, the women’s list does not feature any ex-champions so far.

The player field also includes Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych, Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet, David Ferrer of Spain, Milos Raonic, Tommy Haas, Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur from Australia, Ana Ivanovic and Americans Sloane Stephens and John Isner.

Mumbai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are the four cities who have confirmed to having teams in this inaugural edition. A fifth city, most probably from the Middle East, is expected to be named on Sunday.

“I’m super excited about this taking off. We have all worked hard for the past few months in getting things ready and on Sunday some more details will be made known,” Bhupathi told Gulf News.

“We will know how the teams turn out later on Sunday,” he added.

To be presided by the team owners, a major part of Sunday will be spent deliberating and firming up rules for the competition.

“Basically, it will be a workshop to explain to everyone how this competition will run in the future,” Bhupathi said.

Three Indians figure in the list so far led by Somdev Devvarman, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza, but Bhupathi’s long-time doubles partner Leander Paes does not feature in the draft.

Reportedly, each of the five teams will have the option of drafting between six to 10 players on Sunday and the salaries each team will pay to its players is estimated to be between $4 million (Dh14.69 million) and 10 million (Dh36.73 million), depending of course, on the appeal of each player.

As per rules laid down, every tie will consist of five matches: a men’s and women’s singles, a men’s doubles, mixed doubles and legends singles. The matches will be one-set affairs, played with the no-ad rule with the entire tie to be completed in three hours.

Organised with the aim of growing the presence of tennis in Asia the first edition of the competition will be played on a home and away basis from November 28 to December 20.

Fact Box

PLAYERS’ LIST

Men

Icon players: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras.

Past champions: Patrick Rafter, Mark Phillipoussis, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic, Fabrice Santoro, Rainer Schuettler, Carlos Moya.

Category A: David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Category B: Richard Gasquet, Milos Raonic, Tommy Haas, John Isner, Gael Monfils, Lleyton Hewitt.

Category C: Jerzy Janowicz, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Aleksandr Dolgopolav, Marcos Baghdatis, Fablo Fognini, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco.

Category D: Kevin Anderson, Marinko Matosevic, Sam Querrey, Dmitry Tursunov, Somdev Devvarman, Janko Tipsarevic, Rendy Lu.

Doubles players: Bruno Soares, Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Alexander Peya, Marcin Matkowski, Marcelo Melo, Mariusz Fyrstenberg, Marc Lopez, Daniel Nestor, Rohan Bopanna, Robert Lindstedt, Nenad Zimonjic.

Women

Icon Players: Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki.

Category A: Agnieszka Radwanska.

Category B: Ana Ivanovic, Samantha Stosur, Sloane Stephens.

Category C: Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Martina Hingis, Daniela Hantuchova.

Category D: Sabine Lisicki, Kirsten Flipkens, Alize Cornet, Kristina Mladenovic, Su-Wei Hsieh, Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Sania Mirza, Donna Vekic.

Gulf News