Premier League masterplan set for unveiling

Last Updated: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 09:19

Dubai: The master plan of a new entrepreneurial giant, touted as a game changer for professional tennis, will be revealed in Dubai during the next three days.

The International Tennis Premier League (ITPL) may not be entirely original -- it`s like cricket`s Indian Premier League -- it should be opulent, with talk that a top player might earn a million dollars a night.

It could also have implications for the established men`s and women`s circuits, the ATP Tour and the WTA Tour, which have dominated the sport since the 1970s.

That is because the IPTL may happen in the off-season between November 28 and December 20, which is usually claimed as a vital period of rehabilitation for players, reducing the injury-caused withdrawals from tournaments.

That might partly explain why Maria Sharapova, who has recovered superbly from a shoulder operation, is said not to be interested in the IPTL, and why the super-fit Novak Djokovic pronounces the idea "fantastic."

Andy Murray, who has had a back operation, is apparently contemplating his options, while Roger Federer, who will be 33 later this year, seems only cautiously hopeful.

Players could lay themselves open to charges of hypocrisy if they sign up for the event.

Rafael Nadal once described the ATP Tour calendar as "crazy" and warned it might shorten careers.

Yet with his agent Benito Perez-Barbadillo on board with the ITPL, it is hard to believe the 13 times Grand Slam champion won`t at least make occasional appearances.

Already said to have signed up are Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.

If marquee players are allowed to pick occasional appearances, while others commit for a three-week duration, it might fit with health considerations rather better.

Identities of players taking part should be known on Friday while teams, formats and other workings of the tournament should be revealed on Sunday, when the media will be briefed at the Oberoi hotel.
"I think it`s a fantastic concept if it happens, obviously," said Djokovic. "I hope and I believe it will.

"It`s going to promote tennis in the Asian part of the world. That is a huge market. It`s a fun concept. It lets the players enjoy themselves on court and off court together.

"It`s something that we don`t get to see that much, the team concept. It`s not that easy to realize, because it`s a huge program and project. Hopefully, I`m going to try to be part of it."

Federer sounded more cautious.

"Firstly, I want to see whether it takes off or not. I know a lot of people have invested in it or are part of it.

"Anywhere where tennis grows is a good thing, so I hope it takes off and becomes very successful."

The concept is that of Mahesh Bhupathi, the 12-time doubles Grand Slam champion from India, who claims that it can change tennis as cricket is being changed by its Premier League

He will have with him as chief executive Morgan Menahem (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga`s manager), as well as Justin Gimelstob (a players` representative on the ATP board), Boris Becker (six times former Grand Slam singles champion and now Djokovic`s coach), and Perez-Barbadillo.

It seems likely there will be five venues -- Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, who may be asked to allocate $10 million for the players` salaries, and a further $12 million for a ten-year term.

The likelihood is of eight matches between five teams, on a home-and-away basis, each match of one set, in men`s singles, women`s singles, men`s doubles, mixed doubles, and legends` singles.

Each set will be shorter with a one-point decider at deuce and a tie-break at 5-5. It should all last about three hours, tailored for TV.

AFP

First Published: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 09:19

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