Former World No. 1 Roger Federer, who has spent the majority of 2016 recovering from injury after taking a hiatus from the sport following injuries, will return for a one-off this year at the IPTL, it has been revealed.
The Swiss Maestro will return to former team Indian Aces for the three-day India leg, but it is not yet clear how many matches he will play. Last year, the 34-year-old played one match in the India leg, representing the UAE Royals against the Indian Aces’ Rafael Nadal, also Federer’s longtime rival.
Organizers confirmed the news, which had earlier been a rumour, in a tweet over the weekend of 27th November; Federer will lead the Indian Aces, who will also see Doubles World No. 1 Sania Mirza feature along with Australian former No. 1 Mark Phillippoussis, with top Indian men’s doubles player Rohan Bopanna remaining on the team from last year.
2016 French Open doubles winner Feliciano Lopez will be on the team, likely specialising in the doubles, but the Spaniard, who is also in the top 30 in the singles, could well be a valuable weapon for the Aces.
Former World No. 4 Thomas Enqvist will also be on the team; the 3-time Masters title winner will be the seniormost player on the team at 42-years-old. Doubles ace Ivan Dodig and Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard will be the other players on the team, which will play in India from the 9th to the 11th of December.
In big news, 22-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams will also play the league this year, headlining the Singapore Slammers’ attack; she had represented the side in her first IPTL season, but since moved to the Philippine Mavericks for the subsequent season.
The league, formed by former World No.1 Mahesh Bhupathi in 2014, has seen some of tennis’ biggest names – Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic among them – represent several teams in the league tennis format, which has seen some rule tweaks in gameplay.
The league this year will be truncated, with only four teams rather than 5, and 3 venues rather than 4. The Indian Aces, Japan Warriors, UAE Royals and Singapore Slammers will be the four teams that play the IPTL this season, with Hyderabad one of the host cities; Tokyo and Singapore will also host one leg apiece, meaning the UAE Royals will miss out on a home venue.
World No. 5 Kei Nishikori will be another big name playing at this year’s IPTL; the 26-year-old will remain with home side Japan Warriors. Nishikori has had perhaps the best year of his career so far this year, beating Rafael Nadal for Olympic bronze and ousting Andy Murray from the US Open. The Japanese ace also put up a stiff fight against then-No.1 Novak Djokovic at the clay-court Madrid Masters, nearly toppling the eventual champion from the tournament.
The IPTL will commence on the 2nd of December, with the opening leg to be played in Singapore.