The idea is borrowed from cricket. The name is a giveaway. The stakes, though, are a tad higher. The International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), conceptualised by Mahesh Bhupathi, will be launched at The Oberoi in Dubai on Friday. Five teams — based in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur — will have to allocate up to $10 million for the players' salaries. In addition, they will have to shell out $12 million for a 10-year term.
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, the competition will be staged between November 28 and December 20, which, effectively, is the off-season. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is the biggest draw, the Spaniard expected to pocket a cool $1 million a night.
Top women's players, including World No. 4 Victoria Azarenka, are also believed to have confirmed their participation. Andy Murray (who may or may not play), chief executive Morgan Menahem (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's manager), Justin Gimelstob (a players' representative on the ATP board), Boris Becker (tennis legend and, now, Novak Djokovic's coach) and press spokesman Benito Perez-Barbadillo (who works with Nadal) are the ones working behind the scenes.
There will be eight matches between the five teams, played on a home-and-away basis. Each match is intended to consist of five separate sets, contested in men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, mixed doubles, and legends' singles. So if it's 2-2, then the yesteryear stars will play the decider. Sets are to be shorter than usual. There will be no 'Advantage' scoring; in other words, the first point after deuce will decide the game. The tie-break will be contested at 5-5.
To quote Menahem, "It's made for TV, three to 3½ hours, so you know when it ends."
Several other top players have signed up already. They are Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki. Roger Federer has apparently not shown interest in the league. Bhupathi is still keen on having Djokovic and Murray on board.
According to the ground rules, 'marquee' players (those who have been No.1 or won Grand Slams) are entitled to pick and choose their appearances, while others are in it for the three-week duration.
There is a lot of speculation going on in the locker rooms. After all, this is a first-of-its-kind venture in tennis. But Bhupathi is doing all he can to generate interest, and trust. He has promised to deliver 40 per cent of the fees within a month of the auction.
The league is Mahesh Bhupathi's brainchild. A 12-time Grand Slam champion, the 40-year-old is very popular on the circuit. Morgan Menahem is the CEO. Other biggies include Justin Gimelstob, Boris Becker and Benito Perez-Barbadillo
Eight matches between five city-based teams, played home and away, running over three weeks from the end of November to late December. Each match is intended to consist of five separate sets, contested in men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, mixed doubles and legends' singles. Sets are to be shorter than usual: no-ad scoring (in which the first point after deuce decides each game) and a tie-break at 5-5
On board: Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet, Agnieszka Radwanska, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki
Not interested: Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova
Contemplating: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Serena Williams