New Delhi: Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi, who has launched his ambitious International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) with the backing of a galaxy of top stars, says his event would be TV, spectator and players friendly because of its unique model.
Superstars such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and legends Andre Aggasi and Pete Sampras have promised to feature in the league, which is expected to begin in December 2014, prior to the Australian Open.
Modelled on the highly successful Indian Premier League cricket event, the IPTL, a Bhupathi-owned Globosport property, will feature the world's best players representing franchises throughout Asia.
At least 9-10 cities including Singapore, Tokyo, Mumbai, Delhi, Hong Kong, Manila, Seoul, Dubai, Jakarta and Doha are in contention to buy six franchisees.
"We wanted a model which was TV friendly, spectator friendly and of course player friendly. The biggest complaint in tennis has been that you have no control over time of a match.
"You don't know if Grand Slam final will be a two-hour match or a five-hour match. Here we are guaranteeing TV that it will be over in maximum of three hours, so all are excited," Bhupathi told PTI in an exclusive chat.
The league will have a 30-match schedule in its first year with home-and-away matches between each of the six franchises. Each team can have six to 10 players.
There will be five matches a night in one-set men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, mixed doubles and legends singles.
The players have often complained of long season which gives them little time for rest and recovery, but Bhupathi has managed to convince them to play in the league. Asked how he could do it, Bhupathi said, "Tennis is an individual sport, so we don't get to play team competitions except for Davis cup and fed Cup, so the players liked this concept of team event."
All the six franchises will be based in Asian cities.
Bhupathi was asked why his partners in the project --Justin Gimelstob, a member of the ATP board, and legend Boris Becker -- chose to concentrate on just Asia.
"There is a big demand for tennis in region. The players are involved in exhibition matches during the year. There's a huge appetite for world class tennis here. That's why the Asian cities," Bhupathi said.
Bhupathi, who has already said that 2013 would be his last as a player on Tour, said it took several deliberations over a long period to conceptualise the event.
"We were working on it for the past 15 months. It's not easy, since tennis is an individual sport. I spoke to a few players about the concept to make a team event where players will be bought by owners ... that's how it all started," he said.
Since India host just one top tier men's event in Chennai Open and no WTA event, if Indian fans could watch stars such as Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Djokovic in action in their own cities, it would surely be a treat to watch.
Bhupathi said Indian tennis will benefit but one has to wait.
"Tennis will benefit in general. The youngsters will get to watch top players in action. Young players will also be involved, so let's see."
Bhupathi also informed that he has spoken to Indian players such as Sania Mirza, Somdev Devvarman, Rohan Bopanna for participation in the league.
"I'm sure all of them will be involved. Everything is under process," he said adding that Leander Paes will also be there.
Bhupathi also said that governing bodies of the game, both ATP and WTA, were very supportive of his project.
Story first published on: Sunday, 26 May 2013 14:45 IST