The long wait for news on the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) 2016 season ended on Thursday with the organizers announcing that the upcoming season is to be held from December 2-11. Some changes are lined up in this edition as the popular five-city format has been curtailed to just three – Tokyo (December 2-4), Singapore (December 6-8) and Hyderabad (December 9-11).
In an interaction with the media, IPTL founder Mahesh Bhupathi has said that the shift from Delhi to Hyderabad was necessitated because the owners wanted the game to spread to other parts of the country and check if it created the same buzz in the new venues. Even in Japan, Kobe hosted the teams last season and this time, the capital city Tokyo is the chosen location.
“There is no particular reason, we did it there (Delhi) for two years, the fans enjoyed world class tennis,” said Bhupathi.
“The concept was built about having one team for country. Last year, we did it in Kobe (in Japan), this year we are doing it in Tokyo. The owners wanted an opportunity to move to a different city, to see if they get good buzz,” the 12-time Grand Slam winner explained.
After seeing the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray regaling tennis lovers, interest is naturally piqued about the squads of Season 3. However, much to the disappointment of fans, not a single one of the above-mentioned quartet – popularly called the Big Four – features in the list that has been revealed so far.
The only ATP top-10 singles player is the World No. 5 Kei Nishikori who will be helming the Japan Warriors.
Even among the WTA singles players, World No. 2 Serena Williams of the Singapore Slammers is the only marquee name. Clearly, the team rosters have failed to live up to the expectations this time and will leave the fans dejected after it set such a high standard for the past two seasons.
Federer rumoured to be the solitary Big Four member this time
All hopes of seeing the biggest stars are, however, still not lost. Bhupathi has assured that one Big Four member will eventually turn up but the name will only be revealed in the next 48 hours.
“One of the Big Four is definitely coming. We did not want to reveal all our cards today. We will announce the name in the next 48 hours,” Bhupathi told PTI.
Speculation is rife that the only Big Four player to compete in the IPTL this time would be Roger Federer, who wrapped up his season right after Wimbledon for rehabilitation of the knee on which he had surgery earlier. But no confirmation has been made yet.
Federer, in all probability, will return to his 2014 team Indian Aces, which currently has ATP World No. 28 Feliciano Lopez as its highest-ranked singles star.
Indian Aces: Sania Mirza, Feliciano Lopez, Mark Philippoussis, Ivan Dodig, Rohan Bopanna, Eugenie Bouchard, Thomas Enqvist.
Japan Warriors: Kei Nishikori, Kurumi Nara, Fernando Verdasco, Fernando Gonzalez, Marat Safin, Jelena Jankovic, Jean-Julien Rojer.
Singapore Slammers: Serena Williams, Rainer Schuettler, Nick Kyrgios, Marcos Baghdatis, Carlos Moya, Kiki Bertens, Marcelo Melo.
UAE Royals: Thomas Johansson, Tomas Berdych, Pablo Cuevas, Daniel Nestor, Martina Hingis, Ana Ivanovic, Goran Ivanisevic.