Dec/17

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IPTL in Critical Condition

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The popular IPTL tennis league, created by former ATP pro Mahesh Bhupathi in 2013, will not contest any matches this season.

The International Premier Tennis League, which has featured superstars Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray, Carlos Moya, Ana Ivanovic in past seasons, has run into financial problems, Bhupathi said a few days ago. The IPTL web site is currently down but Bhupathi still holds hope that he can revive the exhibition style franchise league however it may be with an altered format. Instead of sustaining four or five teams around Asia and India, Bhupathi is said to be considering a scaled-down format to be staged in one country.

Though strong attendance figures supported some of the franchises since the IPTL debut in 2014, last year’s failure to secure Serena Williams performance in December was a most ominous sign. Williams pulled out a day before her scheduled performance in Singapore, which resulted in a disappointing thousand fans inside a 12,000 seat Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The IPTL created many memorable, fun moments of players interacting with teammates, unlike the ultra-extreme business-like seriousness of the WTA and ATP Tours, however the sponsor support and live gate figures will need to substantially improve if Bhupathi’s brainchild is to survive.

13 comments

  • Andrew Miller · December 3, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Fascinating. I was surprised by the league’s popularity!

    That said I think its impact is clear, it created a market for tennis in countries that aren’t known as tennis hotbeds.

    I think there are also a few ball kids from the tournaments that will make it to the tours! Sometimes that’s a huge deal.

  • catherine · December 3, 2017 at 9:08 am

    There’s probably not the market for tennis in that part of the world – cricket is the main sport on the subcontinent and a lot of money goes into the Indian Premier League which attracts tv coverage, large audiences and sponsors.

    Not much left over for tennis which is pretty much a minority sport in other parts of South East Asia.

    Nice try, but I wouldn’t expect to see the IPTL revived.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 3, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Andrew, I too was surprised by how entertaining the IPTL was. Hewitt played the one year and he was yelling come ons in doubles, I mean ferocious come on!ss!! That league was super serious but also once the ball was not live and on breaks it was a lot of fun and smiles and laughs. Kiki Bertens is stone face in WTA, never smiles, but in IPTL she loved it and was constantly smiling and enjoying the experience with teammates like Melo, etc. Melo loved it too and he became good friends with Moya – saw them practicing together at US Open this year court 17 before Rafa was supposed to show up but he never did. I asked Bertens about IPTL in Miami this year and she said she really liked it. IPTL captured an essence of pro tennis that we rarely see. Hopefully Bhupathi can find a way to rebuild it because I think a lot of people miss seeing it on Tennis Channel. I think if Bhupathi relocated the league to USA or Europe or Japan/China/India it could catch on.

  • catherine · December 3, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I can see your points, but setting up a profitable competition like this, and holding it at a time of the year when many players are taking a break, needs a lot of planning and ongoing sponsorship. That means financial stability and probity as well.
    You need money, and the money’s not there. Federer and Serena baled out last year because they probably foresaw problems when it came to cashing the cheques. They weren’t wrong.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 3, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    When Fed played I remember the venue looked lower class than probably what Fed is accustomed to. Some of the venues looked minor league. Maybe it just isn’t meant to be. December is a month most players want to relax and stay home. Though juniors have two of their biggest events in December – Herr and Orange Bowl.

  • Bryan · December 8, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    IPTL is just a glorified exho that pays appearance fees to tempt players into skipping rest and training camps. Then players who go for the money complain about tennis season being too long. Can’t have it both ways.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 9, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Bryan; the players don’t really complain anymore about the long season schpiel. The ATP might have ordered that to stop. I always thought that bit about players complaining about the length of the season was a weak argument because they didn’t have to enter every tournament. They could just go home and sit out. I do think they shortened the women’s season.

  • catherine · December 10, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Yes, the women’s season has been shortened. For many players there’s nearly 2 months off.

  • Andrew Miller · December 10, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Scoop, any great players from the subcontinent? I see so much talent but they get stuck in the challengers! Maybe there’s not enough interest in tennis. It’s too bad. Maybe a ball kid will stay with the sport.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

    There’s talent from every continent and more and more seems to be coming from Asia. A lot of Asians in the WTA and also in Eddie Herr there were many in the later rounds. More Asians now ascending in ATP too. Wu Yibing from China the latest sensation.

  • catherine · December 10, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc are all about cricket. Would need one really superb player to change that.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Every year I saw Indian players at Eddie Herr and going deep. Of course, one of the top prospects now is Zane Khan who is 14 or 15, he won Herr singles last year in 14s and he is Brazilian and Pakistani but American born. His twin brother Faris is also highly regarded.

  • catherine · December 11, 2017 at 2:24 am

    Get a Virat Kohli of the tennis world and you’d be off.

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