Tennis: Joker in S'pore's pack

Tennis: Joker in S'pore's pack
EXCITING: IPTL managing director Mahesh Bhupathi (above) at the launch of this year’s event which will feature world No. 1 Novak Djokovic (far left) on the Singapore team.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Joker and the Wild Thing on the same team - things could get crazy at the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from Dec 18-20.

World No. 1 tennis player and newly crowned Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic will lead the Singapore Slammers at this year's IPTL event.

The Serbian player, nicknamed "the Joker" for his outgoing demeanour and sense of humour, is headlining the Singapore team, who include promising Australian Nick Kyrgios.

The 20-year-old, known as much for his temperament on the court as his ability with the racket, was booed after his fourth-round loss to Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon amid accusations of tanking.

Former world No. 1 Carlos Moya of Spain, Brazilian doubles specialist Marcelo Melo, Swiss Belinda Bencic and Czech Karolina Pliskova complete the Slammers' line-up.

In a specially recorded video message to his Singapore fans and played at the launch of the IPTL at Theatreworks yesterday, Djokovic said: "I have such a great team, and we are going to rock the stage!"

Top players from both the ATP and WTA Tours have confirmed their IPTL participation, including Roger Federer (UAE Royals), Serena Williams (Philippine Mavericks), Kei Nishikori (Japan Warriors) and Rafael Nadal (Indian Aces).

Prateek Gupta, chairman of UD Group and franchise owner of the Slammers, is excited to have the world No. 1 lead Singapore's team.

He said: "Djokovic is one of the greatest players in the game and to have him represent Singapore is a rare honour.

"We hope all of Singapore will get behind him and the rest of the Slammers come December.

"It's time to play differently and embrace a fresh and exciting tennis concept."

TWO YEARS

Unlike last year, the composition of players for all teams will be for two years instead of one season.

Singapore's team in the inaugural season included world No. 1 Williams and former world No. 1 Andre Agassi. The team finished bottom of the four-team league.

The team-based, multi-nation tennis league has expanded to five teams for its second edition, with the Japan Warriors joining the line-up.

The five-city swing begins on Dec 2 in Japan and culminates at the Singapore's Indoor Stadium for the grand finale.

Another change will see the top two teams in the league play off to determine the champions on Dec 20 in Singapore.

Modelled largely on cricket's Indian Premier League, the IPTL features an abbreviated format of tennis - including innovations such as a shot clock and power points.

"Our inaugural season saw past, present and future champions playing in front of packed audiences across Asia.

Both players and fans enjoyed our 'new code' of tennis," said former Indian doubles champion, Mahesh Bhupathi, who is the IPTL's founder and managing director.

"We are glad to have been able to expand the tournament to Japan. The idea is always going to be one team per country. "We want to take things step by step and our ultimate goal is to reach eight teams by 2020."

What: International Premier Tennis League (IPTL)

Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium

When: Dec 18-20; 4pm & 7.30pm (2 team matches per day)

Tickets: On sale, starting today on www.sportshub.com.sg/sportshubtix

Categories:

Baseline box suites: $3,500 On court seats: $795 Courtside boxes: $695 Cat 1 premium: $595 Cat 1 regular: $395 Cat 2: $195

In celebration of SG50, tennis fans who purchase their tickets between today and Aug 10 will enjoy a $50 discount on all tickets. The discount applies to all season passes.

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 24, 2015.
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