New Delhi: Former Grand Slam champions will team up with a mixture of current players and local Indian talent in a novel contest when the inaugural Champions Tennis League opens on Monday.
Venus Williams, Greg Rusedski, Mark Philippousis and Martina Hingis are among those lined up for the franchise-based 10-day event across six cities being organised by former player Vijay Amritraj.
Other star names expected to take part are Pat Cash, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Thomas Enqvist, along with current men's world number 14 Feliciano Lopez and women's number six Agnieszka Radwanska.
The players will be spread over six teams -- Punjab Marshalls, Bangalore Raptors, Delhi Dreams, Hyderabad Aces, Mumbai Masters and Pune Marathas -- owned by local companies.
The teams have been divided into two groups for the double-leg, home and away preliminary round, with the winner of each group contesting the final in New Delhi on November 26.
The winning team will pocket the top prize of 10 million rupees ($163,000), while the runners-up will get half that amount. (Also read: See India Through My Eyes, Amritraj Tells Hingis, Venus and Co.)
Each tie comprises one-set matches in five categories -- legends, men's singles and doubles, women's singles and mixed doubles.
The first to reach six games is declared the winner of a match even without a two-point advantage, while a nine-point tie-breaker will be enforced if the score reaches 5-5.
"The Champions Tennis League is exclusive to India," said Amritraj, a former Davis Cup star and now a popular television commentator. "It will do great things for Indian tennis.
"Our young players will get a chance to learn from these great players."
But the league suffered a blow even before it began when its top attraction -- world number 10 David Ferrer, who was due to play for the Punjab team -- pulled out with a back injury.