A new professional tennis league kicks off this year using a unique model that will be more spectator-friendly and fun for the sport’s top-ranked players.
The International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), established by Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi, is modeled after the highly successful Indian Premier League for cricket and will feature many of the world’s most popular players competing in four Asian franchises.
Bhupathi is also the founder of Globosport, a 12-year-old sports marketing and entertainment agency which boasts Andy Murray as a client. In 2012, New York marketer Platinum Rye bought a 50 percent share of Globosport’s brands business, helping fund the agency and most likely fueling the development of the IPTL.
With the establishment of the IPTL, Bhupathi intends to capitalize on the growing interest in tennis in Asia, explaining that “we are on the doorstep of Asia . . . so for us, Asia is our big growth market, and we are getting more and more people coming from Asia to the Australian Open.” Asia already appears to be a hot market for tennis events; Singapore will host the next four WTA Championships and the ATP World Tour is finishing a month-long series of tournaments in Malaysia, China and Japan.
With teams in the Philippines, Mumbai, Dubai and Singapore, the league will provide a fan-friendly round-robin tournament. Each team had roughly £6.6 million to spend during the draft to sign six to 10 marquee players and past legends.
Here are the team rosters:
Roger Federer (replacing injured Rafael Nadal), Ana Ivanovic, Gael Monfils, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna, Pete Sampras, Fabrice Santoro
Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Janko Tipsarevic, Malek Jaziri, Nenad Zimonic, Goran Ivanisevic, Eugenie Bouchard
Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Maria Sharapova, Daniel Nestor, Kirsten Flipkens, Carlos Moya
Tomas Berdych, Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Daniela Hantuchova, Bruno Soares, Patrick Rafter, Nick Krygios
Each country will host a leg of the competition with the winners receiving $1 million in prize money. IPTL chief operating officer Eric Gottschalk said the league might feature a fifth Asian franchise next year, with plans to expand to eight teams by 2017-2018. With the season premiering in just under two months, fans are anxious to see how the new league will stand up next to the U.S.-based Mylan World Team Tennis.