Tennis: Grand start for IPTL

SINGAPORE - While women's world No. 1 Serena Williams, world No. 5 Ana Ivanovic and eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi were here, some fans in the Singapore leg - the second stop of the four-leg series this season - wanted to see the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Pete Sampras play at the Indoor Stadium.

But some of the players will not play in all four legs - the 2014 IPTL kicked off in Manila last week and will travel to New Delhi and Dubai after Singapore.

Williams played only on the third day in Manila, and will not feature in the second half of the US$1 million (S$1.3m) IPTL.

Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova featured in Manila, but did not make the trip here.


Asked about the possibility of all the stars playing in each of the legs in the future, Bhupathi, a former doubles Grand Slam winner, said yesterday: "Eventually our format will evolve into something like that. Today it is cost- and time-prohibitive to get Roger to play in every event.

"So, while we think we've achieved something out of the box here, which was very challenging, we have to be really realistic in the realm of what is possible and what is not.

"We are very blessed that the likes of the Federers, the Marias, and the Djokovics are playing in the league, which gives it a lot of profile and a lot of respect."

After getting on track with their first win of the inaugural IPTL on Wednesday night, the DBS Singapore Slammers raised huge roars on the final night yesterday when they beat the UAE Royals 27-25.

Bhupathi  admitted to being "very nervous" about the turnout for the Singapore leg, as it is the only leg among the four to be played on a weekday stretch.

He described the crowd as "amazing", and said the tournament will be back in Singapore next year, and two new cities will be added to the roster.

"I am glad we picked the city (Singapore) and I am looking forward to bring it back here year after year," said the 40-year-old.

"Like I said in the beginning, it is a franchise and there are no plans to move out unless something earth-shattering (happens).

"We are definitely going to add two cities next year. We have about four cities ready to sign on the dotted line at the end of next month. Unfortunately, we can't do all four just for the sake of sustainability."

While he acknowledged that the four Grand Slams will remain the "pillars" of the sport, he is happy to see the players embrace the format of the IPTL, which features a unique, shortened format.

He said: "We have carved out our space in the tennis calendar and we are very happy about it.

"We fought all odds to get to where we are today. The players have embraced it and that's half the battle won in our eyes."

This article was first published on December 5, 2014.
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