Dubai – World No.1 Rafael Nadal has been drafted to represent Team Mumbai, Novak Djokovic will headline Team Dubai, while top WTA star Serena Williams will feature in Team Singapore, in the inaugural edition of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).
Team owners and IPTL organisers - led by Indian doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi, the Managing Director of the league, held a draft on Sunday in Dubai where a total sum of $23,975,000 was spent across four teams to be based in Bangkok, Mumbai, Dubai and Singapore.
Nadal will be joined by 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras in Team Mumbai, while Djokovic has fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic, ex-world No1 Caroline Wozniacki and Arab No1 Malek Jaziri as his allies.
Teams owners are allowed to have up to 10 players in their roster.
“We've got some unbelievably strong teams. I think out of the 28 players that got drafted we have about 21 Grand Slam champions. We have 14 present and past number ones. It's a pretty blockbuster field,” Bhupathi said.
Partly modeled after the financially-successful Indian Premier League (IPL), the IPTL has been described by Djokovic as a “fantastic concept” while others like Roger Federer - a notable absentee from the player field - has been more cautious in his views on the idea.
“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,” Federer told reporters in Dubai last week.
“Anywhere where tennis grows is a good thing, so I hope it takes off and becomes very successful. In Asia, there is enormous potential - in places like China and India, due to the amount of people that live there and the excitement they have for tennis.”
Asia's top male and female players, Kei Nishikori and Li Na are also missing from the player field, along with career Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova.
Former world No.1 Carlos Moya attended the draft, which has placed him in Team Bangkok alongside British two-time major champion Andy Murray.
The Spanish star is not only a participant but is also the Vice President of Players Relations within the league.
“I'm very excited to be part of this competition, and look forward to playing for Bangkok. I have fond memories from the days I've played there,” said Moya.
The much-talked about league will take place during the off season of the tennis calendar, between November 27 and December 14, and will feature 24 matches across the four host cities in the Middle East and Asia.
Each match will follow a best-of-five format comprised of separate sets contested in men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, mixed doubles and past champions singles, with the home team choosing the order of play prior to each match.
Play is scheduled to start in Singapore, followed by Bangkok, Mumbai and will finally conclude in Dubai.
Each city will host six matches in a three day period and each team will have a regular roster and a travel roster that will have to include a minimum number of players from the different categories.
The concept is the brainchild of Bhupathi, who believes it can have a revolutionary effect on tennis. He is joined at the helm by Morgan Menahem, the CEO if the league who also happens to be the agent of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
November 28, 29, 30
Tomas Berdych, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Serena Williams, Bruno Soares, Patrick Rafter, Daniela Hantuchova, Nick Krygios
December 2, 3, 4
Andy Murray, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Victoria Azarenka, Daniel Nestor,Carlos Moya, Kirsten Flipkens
December 7, 8, 9
Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils, Pete Sampras. Rohan Bopanna, Ana
Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Fabrice Santoro
December 11, 12, 13
Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Goran Ivanisevic, Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonic, Malek Jaziri, Martina Hingis, –Sapa-AFP