Singapore: The head of the new International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) shrugged off concerns over Roger Federer`s fitness on Thursday as the Swiss star battles a back injury.
Founder and managing director Mahesh Bhupathi said he had received reassurances from Federer`s camp as the clock ticks down to the innovative tournament`s debut season.
"We spoke to them. He`s fine, he`s playing Davis Cup this weekend," Bhupathi told AFP in Singapore, one of four venues for the IPTL which starts in Manila next week.
A possible withdrawal by Federer, who pulled out of Sunday`s World Tour Finals decider but is playing the Davis Cup final against France this weekend, would be a major blow to the IPTL.
Rafael Nadal, who is recovering from appendix surgery, is the notable absentee in a tournament which features a who`s-who of current and former tennis stars.
Bhupathi said he hoped the made-for-TV IPTL, which puts a limit on match-times and features a shot-clock, DJs and cheerleaders, would become a strong draw for players even at the end of a long season.
"We`ve created this exciting format and they`ll hopefully schedule us along with the four Slams and they can work around it," he said at the launch of the Singapore Slammers team.
"People say that the season is long but we`re creating something that is exciting enough for them to come so that they`ll automatically schedule us."
Doubts have been raised over the viability and format of the tournament, which has ties of five single-set matches in men`s and women`s singles, mixed doubles, men`s doubles and men`s veterans.
Teams representing Manila, Singapore, New Delhi and Dubai will play each other in the four cities in a mini-league packed into a compact schedule of about three weeks.
But it has piqued interest elsewhere with the professional women`s tour floating the idea of its own team tournament and the India-based Champions Tennis League starting only this week.
"I know it`s been discussed at the ATP board level, I know it`s been discussed at the WTA," Bhupathi said, referring to the men`s and women`s tours.
"They should be -- this is a big market, tennis is extremely popular. Fortunately for us we`ve captured the first mover advantage. First in, last out."
Bhupathi said he wanted the tournament to grow to eight teams in the Asian region by 2020, with China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Japan among the list of destinations.
But first the IPTL will need a successful launch, starting on November 28 in the Philippine capital where Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova headline the Manila Mavericks.
"There`s a lot of intrigue, there`s a lot of excitement, there`s a lot of scepticism. Obviously we feel like the format should work... we`ve made it time-sensitive and got our fingers crossed," Bhupathi said.
"The sceptics have been there for the last two years, and now they`re like, `Holy crap! It`s actually happening`. Let`s see what they say about the season."