When Mahesh Bhupathi conceived the idea of launching the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), it must have felt like the movie “Field of dreams.” Nearly a year later, with top-ranked players like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Maria Sharapova signed up to play in the league, the “if you build it, they will come” model seems to have worked!
The maiden season of the franchise is scheduled to kick off in Manila, Philippines on November 28th, 2014, and the grand finale scheduled to take place in Dubai on the 13th of December 2014.
A few months ago when I wrote about Mahesh Bhupathi’s dream of launching the IPTL, its fate was still unclear. Now with matches scheduled and tickets on sale, Bhupathi has pulled it off – albeit on a smaller scale than originally conceived.
The idea behind IPTL is to bring top-ranked male and female tennis players together in a team format akin to other sports leagues like the NBA and NHL. Unlike the Davis cup, where the teams are country-specific, the IPTL teams are composed of International players currently enrolled to play under the banners of four teams – Manila Mavericks, UAE Royals, Indian Aces, and Singapore Slammers.
The motivation for the top players probably stems from a combination of money, fan-building, and endorsement opportunities.
The format of the league is expected to appeal to tennis enthusiasts as well as folks looking for pure entertainment. The categories of play include Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles and Legend’s Singles. All matches are to be played in a single-set format with the first person or team winning six games taking the set. For complete rules and details follow this link to the official site of IPTL.
Here are six reasons that it could.
- Bhupathi has managed to attract top talent to the league. If the players compete seriously and attract spectators and TV viewers, it could help in expanding the franchise and sponsorships.
- If the huge success of the cricket equivalent (IPL) is anything to go by, there is appetite among the masses for trendy and entertaining sporting events, especially in India.
- Tennis has huge TV appeal and with the right sponsors and promotions, team rivalries and loyalties could be built up and marketed.
- While the prize money of a $1 million – for the winning team – may not sound like a lot of money in professional tennis terms, the fact that players play very little to earn it may be an attractive proposition. If I understand the format correctly, at an approximate forty-five minutes per set, a player may only have to play a total of six hours in the entire season to split a purse of one million dollars. Not bad!
- The format itself may encourage players to go all out, since they don’t have to worry about the fatigue factor. The tennis purists may hate this aspect, but a casual fan may like the slam-bam aspect of the league.
- Early ticket sales in Manila have shown promise while the other locations appear to be showing positive momentum.
Whether IPTL develops as a formidable sporting franchise, only time will tell.
Meanwhile, the question is: Will they come? The spectators, I mean…