Sport | Tennis

Roger Federer backs bid to tap Asian tennis potential

Legend hopes new ITPL is a success and boosts tennis in the continent

  • By Euan ReedieDeputy Sports Editor
  • Published: 22:02 February 24, 2014
  • Gulf News

Dubai: Roger Federer hopes the “enormous potential” for tennis to grow in Asia can be harnessed through the International Tennis Premier League (ITPL), which will be launched later this year.

Speaking exclusively to Gulf News, Federer said he is keen to see the sport’s equivalent of cricket’s Indian Premier League “take off and be very successful” — despite having no plans to play in it.

Five franchises will take part in the event — Mumbai, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and another, yet-to-be-named, Middle East city — and will play each other on a home-and-away basis from November 28 to December 20.

Each team will be made up of between six and 10 players, with former world number one, Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, the first big name up to sign up to the ambitious project co-founded by Indian doubles ace Mahesh Bhupathi and the coach of Novak Djokovic, the German tennis legend Boris Becker.

“What do I feel about it?” Federer said. “Firstly, I want to see whether it takes off or not. I know a lot of people have invested in it or are part of it. Anywhere where tennis grows is a good thing, so I hope it takes off and becomes very successful. In Asia, there is enormous potential [for tennis to grow], in places like China and India due to the amount of people that live there and the excitement they have for tennis.”

Given his affinity with Dubai — he is the record five-time Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open champion and has property in the emirate, where he trains regularly — has Federer thought about helping the game grow in the UAE in some shape or form?

“I haven’t thought about it any way,” he said. “I haven’t thought about opening any academies or anything. But any new tennis centres or academies created would be unbelievably helpful, and clearly I could be an inspiring person for those kinds of things in terms of talks.

“I hope that this tournament alone can inspire people with five of the world’s top 10 players.”

Gulf News