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International Premier Tennis League – The Long Awaited Year Ending Extravaganza?

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As many of the tennis fans across the world will be aware a chapter is set to start on the tennis calender and its called the International Premier Tennis League. The question is just how much of an impact will this new chapter have with the fans and the players, and just how it will fit in.

For long there has been a demand for a 5th slam on the calendar, and fans and experts have felt that once the US Open concludes, the tennis calender is very quiet for the rest of the year.

Of course there are the year ending ATP World Tour Finals, that sort of aim to be the big tournament to the fill this gap in the calender, however, while the concept of an year ending competition in a round robin format among the top 8 players on the calender, does seem to be a grand idea, but just how much of an impact has it had on the ground is something that can be debated.

What has not helped the ATP World Tour Finals, is that since they started effectively in 1970 in Tokyo, with Stan Smith as the first winner, the tournament has undergone just too many changes over the years. This constant chopping and changing has not helped it form a connection with the fans that the ATP Finals would have liked. These changes have ranged from change of names to criteria for qualification, to the number of participants. Such constant modifications and reboots in the tournament have kept it from getting the definitive status, that a major tournament should have.

Another stumbling block that has kept The ATP World Finals from truly becoming an iconic event, is that it seems to be just an extension of the various ATP events that take place along the year. The round robin format is something different, but it doesn’t quite set the ATP World Finals apart from the rest as much as would be one would expect. It feels like another ATP event only with a Round Robin format at the start.

Some will clearly disagree, but suffice it to say that not all are convinced, that the ATP World Tour Finals have definitively filled the gap that exists post the US Open, and be the solution to the need of an iconic tournament post the US Open.

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There are still, often muted, demands for a 5th Grand Slam in Tennis, to take place after the US Open. These calls for a 5th Grand Slam, muted as they may be, have existed for a while, and one would argue that the demand exists not so much for a 5th Grand Slam, but more for a tournament that can effectively fill the gap most the US Open.

That is to say, what the fans really want, is another Iconic tournament post the US Open. If this is a 5th Grand Slam then so be it, but it needn’t necessarily be the 5th Grand Slam. However, with the sometimes hot, sometimes cold reception of the ATP World Finals its felt that a 5th Grand Slam is perhaps the most effective way of providing this year ending iconic tournament.

However, a 5th Grand Slam is not really a realistic option, and even those calling for a 5th Slam know it. This is the reason why the calls for a 5th Slam have been rather muted at best.

The fact is that the present Grand Slams are not spaced out as well as one would like. While the Australian Open gets done and dusted early in January, but then between the months of May (last week) and August (the start of US Open), a mere four months, 3 grand slams take place. 3 Grand Slams over four months is a very very tough schedule. The Grand Slams are the toughest tournaments for the players, and as taxing as they are physically, they are even more brutal mentally for a player.

Playing a very hectic four months its clear the players need the rest of the year to recuperate themselves, and its clear the gap post the US Open helps them do that. Asking the players to play one more taxing Grand Slam post the US Open, is just impractical. Another stumbling block is that if a new Grand Slam is initiated, it will always live in the shadow of the rest. The four Grand Slams each have a very rich rich history which adds to the prestige of winning one, which a new 5th grand slam will take years before it can catch up to the rest. It will always be the least among equals, and whether it would even be realistically considered an equal, is debatable.

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So for years Tennis has struggled with the need for an iconic extravaganza/tournament, post the US Open, and the ATP World Finals have not quite been a comprehensive solution, and a 5th Grand Slam an impractical option.

The launch of the International Premier Tennis League, once again raises hopes that the gap on the calender post the US Open can be filled, and Tennis can finally get the iconic year ending extravaganza, it has long been calling for.

Just what is the International Tennis Premier League? The International Tennis Premier League is the first ever city based franchise professional league in the world. It will feature four Franchises or Teams across four cities in Asia, and will feature all the present top male and female singles players, and also some of the top male doubles players of the world. Interestingly this is not all, the teams will also feature some of the recently retired legends.

The four teams and the notable players (among others) each team has signed are as follows-

1) Manilla Mavericks –

Men’s Singles – Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Women’s Singles – Maria Sharapova

Men’s Doubles – Daniel Nestor

Legend – Carlos Moya

2) Singapore Slammers –

Men’s Singles – Tomas Berdych, Nick Kyrgios, Lleyton Hewitt

Women’s Singles – Serena Williams, Daniela Hantuchova

Men’s Doubles – Bruno Soares

Legend – Andre Aggasi, Patrick Rafter

3) Indian Aces –

Men’s Singles – Roger Federer, Gael Monfils

Women’s Singles – Ana Ivanovic

Men’s Doubles –

Legend – Pete Sampras, Fabrice Santoro (Also expected to be the teams main doubles player)

(Note – The Indian Aces had also signed Rafael Nadal, however he had to withdraw from the inaugural edition on grounds of the same injury that kept him from participating in the US Open)

4) UAE Royals –

Men’s Singles – Novak Djokovic

Women’s Singles – Caroline Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard

Men’s Doubles – Nenad Zimonjic

Legend – Goran Ivanisevic

Sampras and Aggasi are set to resume their legendary rivalry
Sampras and Aggasi are set to resume their legendary rivalry

The presence of all the top tennis players in the world both Men’s and Women’s in singles and doubles, was enough to make it a notable event, but the presence of the past legends will only add to the spectacle. The players from the teams will face off against players of the other teams, in Men’s and Women’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles and Legend’s Singles. The points from matches will also add to the team totals. The scoring formats will have some interesting alterations.

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There is a lot of hope from this event, and many believe that the event can finally be the year ending iconic extravaganza the whole tennis world has been waiting for. Some cynics have however hastily dismissed the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) as a mere money grabbing exercise. However a much larger section of fans and organisers that believe that the IPTL could be the start of something big.

The IPTL is so different from anything that Tennis has tried so far, that it doesn’t have to worry about first having to emerge from the shadows of other bigger tournaments, and instead can immediately start etching its own place on the calender. The involvement of all the big starts is bound to get the fans excited, and the prize money is going to be very high. It will not tie in anyway to the ATP events and this is perhaps its biggest advantage, as it will not be hampered by being seen as just an extension of the ATP Tour.

The IPTL has the perfect balance in terms of uniqueness and in regard to competitiveness that has prevented the ATP World Finals from being the solution, and which makes the idea of a 5th Slam an irrational option.

The IPTL not only features a glittering line up of the top Men’s and Women’s singles and doubles stars, topped off by the presence of some of the legends of the past, the IPTL is very clearly a tournament very different from anything Tennis has ever seen. It also promises to deliver some high quality tennis which will challenge the players, but at the same time it will not be as taxing as Grand Slam. This will provide the perfect balance of regeneration and competitiveness.

While the journey for the IPTL is a long one, but as the inaugural IPTL approaches, it is clear that it promises much and has a lot of potential, and could finally be the solution to the long held desire for a year ending Tennis Extravaganza.

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