Nadal and Serena in, Federer and Sharapova out for new offseason league

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Roger Federer and Serena Williams

Roger Federer will not play in the IPTL, but Serena Williams is set to participate. (Gary Gershoff/WireImage)

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are among the 70 players in the field for the new International Premier Tennis League.

Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Li Na, however, were not on the entry list released Friday.

The IPTL’s debut season is scheduled to run from Nov. 28-Dec. 20, after the 2014 tennis season ends. The IPTL follows a team-based format similar to that of World Team Tennis. ATP and WTA singles players, ATP doubles teams and ATP legends (including Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras) will be divided among five teams that will be based in Mumbai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and one yet-to-be-named city. The player draft is scheduled for Sunday in Dubai.

Federer, the sport’s biggest draw among fans and sponsors, said he prefers to see how the first year goes before committing his offseason time.

“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,” he told Gulf News. “Anywhere where tennis grows is a good thing, so I hope it takes off and becomes very successful. In Asia, there is enormous potential [for tennis to grow], in places like China and India due to the amount of people that live there and the excitement they have for tennis.”

The IPTL is the brain child of Indian doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi. When the venture was announced last year, players were enthusiastic about earning extra money during the offseason. But the league also been met with some skepticism.

“I think it will be great for tennis if it can be pulled off,” Max Eisenbud, who represents Sharapova and Li, told CNN. “I just don’t see how it could ever work, but I hope I am wrong.”

The biggest questions surrounding the IPTL are how it can lure and pay the game’s top players (read: television deals) and what effect the league will have on the regular tennis calendar. (One report says Nadal could be paid $1 million a night.) Players have been complaining for years about the length of season, which runs from the end of December to late November. With a two-month offseason — which shrinks to only four weeks for Davis Cup finalists — will IPTL participants get enough time to rest and recuperate for the next season? Players will have a hard time finding a sympathetic ear if complaints about injuries and fatigue rack up next year in Australia among those chasing money during their off time.

Here’s a list of notable players who have confirmed their participation:

Men: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Milos Raonic, Tommy Haas, John Isner, Gael Monfils, Lleyton Hewitt, Jerzy Janowicz, Feliciano Lopez, Fabio Fognini, Sam Querrey.

Women: Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Sara Errani, Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur, Martina Hingis, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sabine Lisicki, Sania Mirza.

  • Published On Feb 28, 2014

    Too bad the cities are so far away - this king of thing is exactly what America's next generation of players NEED to be in so they can improve and make enough money to play in European tourneys (since most tourneys are in Europe and that costs money American girls simply don't have).


    “Anywhere tennis grows is a good thing….”

    I agree 100% with Roger.  This is an incredibly important piece of news and thanks for reporting it.

    A few observations, IMHO:

    I’d be interested to see what is the relationship to World Team Tennis.  If this league is in competition with WTT, it does leave a bitter taste in my mouth.  Billie Jean had a great idea and I wish that it could be helped rather than competed with – IF (if!) this league is in competition, which I don’t know.  If the WTT could dispense with the $75 ticket prices and annoying music (among other things) I’d have some reason to go to their events….

    Team tennis is a serial competition.  Two singles play, the match is won or lost and one team gets a point.  And doubles are played.  And so on.  Fundamentally, there’s no such thing as team tennis unless one is speaking of doubles teams.  Team tennis will always be a presentation and tally of matches serially played – one after another.  As anyone who has watched a Fed Cup rubber match knows, that can be exciting, but there will always be that missing element – the simultaneous involvement of the team.  People need to identify and have investment in the team as a unit.  It’s easier to do that when the team represents a country, or to a lesser extent, a city (WTT’s model – which is flawed in that respect).  Therefore, notwithstanding that it’s a “team” event, people experience it as a collection of individual events with the downside that their favorite players don’t get to experience an ultimate prize.  The team does.

    This might sound like a crazy idea, but I wish that someone would conduct some proof of concept trials where the dimensions of the tennis court are altered so that groups of players are able to play together.  AS A TEAM.  I don’t know the right number or dimensions – maybe it’s 8 players per team, maybe an odd number – say 5 with one as the server, similar to volleyball.  Other rule changes could apply such as continuous play, elimination of the let, player substitutions and from a sport design standpoint this new sport could  include requirements that men and women, Masters players (and even juniors!) be on each team during play.  There are so many permutations that could be adjusted to optimize the experience.  The basic point is that I would love to see team tennis experimented with as a parallel event rather than a serial event.  Just a few demonstration trials.

    OK, last observation – the most important:

    Jelena Jankovic will play in this new league.  That means that the new league is guaranteed to sell some seats.  Mine!  The doctor says that watching a pretty woman with a smoking hot body is good for the constitution.  Yeah, boy!

    Go JJ!  


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