Have you watched a professional squash tournament yet?

 

JP Morgan ToC at Grand Central Terminal

So you know all about tennis grand slam events. Do you know the squash equivalents?

Unlike tennis tournaments that get huge media coverage and draw droves of spectators to the stadiums, squash remains a subculture of sorts. Only the ardent fans of the game truly keep track of what is going on in the world of squash. Like many club-squash players that I know, you may have been to major tennis tournaments, but, have you watched a professional squash tournament yet?JP Morgan ToC - Seeded Players

Only very few squash players have.

I am a good example.As someone who visits New York City at least three or four times a year, I have been to watch the US Open tennis, at Arthur Ashe stadium. But, I have yet to attend the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, held in the Grand Central Station Terminal!

Next year I intent to change that.

In case you are not aware, PSA holds a series of events that they classify as Challenger, International, World Series, and World Championship. You can get more details of these categories by visiting the official site of the PSA.

Sticking with the tennis analogy, the PSA World Series tournaments can be likened to the grand slam events. They attract the top players of the game, and boast prize money that ranges between $115,000 to $150,000 – big money in terms of squash! With the entry of Dubai as a venue to hold a squash world series event, there are now nine tournaments that span four continents – Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

The 2015 schedule of tournaments, as it stands today, is shown below.

Tournament Rank Prize money Month City
Tournament of Champions Gold $115,000 January New York, USA
Metro Squash Windy City Open  Gold $115,000 February Chicago, USA
Dubai Squash Open  Gold $115,000 March Dubai, UAE
El Gouna International  Gold $115,000 April El Gouna, Egypt
The Allam British Open  Platinum $150,000 May Hull, England
Hong Kong Open  Platinum $150,000 August Hong Kong
US Open  Gold $115,000 October Philadelphia, USA
Qatar Classic  Platinum $150,000 November Doha, Qatar
World Championship Platinum $350,000 November Bellevue, USA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_PSA_World_Tour

 

As you can see, four of the nine tournaments are scheduled to be held in American cities.

So, if you are planning a vacation next year to one of these cities, why not try to plan it around these tournaments? Or better still, plan a squash vacation.

Going by some of the games shown on squash TV, it does not get any better than this!

International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) – Field of Dreams?

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!  IPTL Players

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…