Dubai: Canadian tennis sensation Eugenie Bouchard is the latest star attraction joining the UAE Royals for the inaugural edition of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), scheduled to get under way in November.
Currently ranked world No. 8, the 20-year-old Bouchard is one of the hottest properties in women’s tennis after becoming the first Canadian to reach the finals of a singles Grand Slam following her runners-up spot at Wimbledon this year.
Before that, the attractive Canadian — named the WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2013 — had also made it to the semi-finals of the 2014 Australian Open and French Open.
Bouchard, who was signed by the Dubai franchise during Wimbledon 2014, will join other UAE Royals Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Martina Hingis, Nenad Zimonjic, Janko Tipsarevic, Goran Ivanisevic and Malek Jaziri for the four-round competition, which will get under way in Manila, Philippines, on November 28.
The UAE Royals, owned by Ace Ventures, had earlier signed World No. 14 Richard Gasquet just before the start of Wimbledon for the event, which is inspired by cricket’s Indian Premier League.
“I think that was a good time to get the new players [Gasquet and Bouchard]. With these two additions, I think Dubai is a legitimate contender to win the title now,” multiple Grand Slam champion Mahesh Bhupathi told Gulf News on Friday.
“From the UAE perspective, this is a smart move. But I don’t think it would be wise [for me] to put my money on anybody. With the way the format goes, it is tough to pick a winner. The reason Dubai went out and got some added muscle is that they want to see if they have a chance to win the title in the first year of this competition.”
Another significant development for the region is the sale of television rights to Abu Dhabi Television. “Abu Dhabi TV will broadcast live to the entire Middle East and North Africa [Mena] region. We have been working for more than two years now and everything is slowly falling in place,” Bhupathi said.
With a prize purse of $1 million (Dh3.67 million), the new IPTL is meant to revolutionise tennis by tapping into the Asian continent’s fan base.
“The annual Dubai Tennis Championship has always been sold out, but that’s a 20-year old property. We have to work hard on our marketing for the next three months and make sure we manage to sell our product in the region,” Bhupathi said.
“Locally we have Novak [Djokovic] and there is a big Serbian following here. There’s Bouchard now and I’ve been told that there are 40,000 Canadians in Dubai. So there will be a concerted effort to try and get these people to come and watch their favourite players in action. All in all, we are going to do everything in our power to sell it out,” he added.
Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Andre Agassi are among the other players involved in the inaugural event.
The four Asian cities including Dubai — New Delhi, Singapore and Manila — will field teams and play each other in a round-robin format at all four locations. Each match will consist of a five-set series with one set each of men’s, women’s, doubles, mixed doubles, and legends competition.
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