x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki lead Team Dubai at IPL-style tennis league

A total of Dh88 million was spent at Sunday's auction in Dubai with Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras joining Team Mumbai.

Novak Djokovic lost to Roger Federer in the semi-finals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday February 28, 2014. Ali Haider / EPA
Novak Djokovic lost to Roger Federer in the semi-finals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday February 28, 2014. Ali Haider / EPA

DUBAI // Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki will headline Team Dubai in the inaugural edition of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).

World No 1 Rafael Nadal was drafted to represent Team Mumbai, while top WTA star Serena Williams will feature in Team Singapore of the new tournament, which is partly modelled after cricket’s financially-successful Indian Premier League (IPL).

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 US$23,975 million (Dh88m) 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, Wozniacki and Arab No1 Malek Jaziri as his allies.

Teams owners are allowed to have up to 10 players in their squads.

“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.

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 before 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 chief executive if the league who also happens to be the agent of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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