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How the Coca-Cola IPTL showcases woman-power in all its glory

TimTim Sharma
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 10 Dec 2014, 18:42 IST
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Maria Sharapova was a fan favourite in Manila

The Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) enters into its final leg on Thursday, with all the four teams heading to Dubai where three more days of intense action can be expected. The response to the Coca-Cola IPTL in the three legs has been simply tremendous, particularly in India.

Packed houses were witnessed at all three venues and the spectators seem to have got their money’s worth. The interesting format with the new rules has also meant it has been a new experience for the players as well.
The organisers of the league, led by former India Davis Cupper Mahesh Bhupathi, must be applauded for the setting up of the league and more crucially, for bringing in the best players in the world to take part in it. Each of the four teams has multiple players who are ranked in the top 10, which has guaranteed high-quality tennis in the Coca-Cola IPTL.

The focus from the organisers, however, has not been only on bringing the best men’s players from the world to take part in the tournament. Along with having Roger Federer in their team, the Indian Aces also had Ana Ivanovic, a former World No. 1 and winner of the 2008 French Open. Similarly, Maria Sharapova was part of the Manila Mavericks’ campaign in the first leg of the tournament.

But the best catch for the organisers was roping in 18-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who has been playing for the Singapore Slammers. The tournament has also showcased the talent of the some of the younger players like Kristina Mladenovic, who has played some impressive tennis in the three legs so far.

The Coca-Cola IPTL has managed to put women’s tennis in the spotlight. In this team-based format, the fairer sex had an equally important role to play as the men. With a mixed doubles set in play, the best of the best in men’s and women’s tennis had to adapt to their partner while playing at the highest levels.

A lot of times, the outcome of an encounter has hinged on the women’s set. Ivanovic pulled off an incredible performance for the Indian Aces against Manila Mavericks in New Delhi, as she won four consecutive games to bring her team level on the overall score and force a Super Shoot-out. Wozniacki had a chance to do something similar for the UAE Royals against the Mavericks a day later, but she fell just short.

From an Indian perspective, Sania Mirza has put in exceptional performances and has been one of the shining lights for the Indian Aces, along with Rohan Bopanna. The Hyderabad star even partnered Federer in the Indian leg’s mixed doubles in a fairy-tale partnership.

The women have displayed the highest levels of athleticism, stamina and strength, and have given a lesson to their female fans everywhere about the importance of leading a fit lifestyle. When a Mladenovic sprints all over the court to retrieve a seemingly ungettable shot or a Wozniacki engages in tireless rallies all through a set, it’s hard not to get inspired.

To add to the on-field action, the inclusion of women’s players in the league has also added a glamour quotient to the league. Sharapova was her usual stylish self in Manila, Williams has brought in oodles of star power every time she has made an appearance, and Ivanovic and Hantuchova have earned plenty of applause from the crowds too.

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The league has given the women of the tennis world to present their talents to the Asian audience. In the absence of a Grand Slam in this region, the Coca-Cola IPTL has worked like a charm in bringing the superstars to the people. Earlier, the idea of seeing Caroline Wozniacki, Daniela Hantuchova and Ana Ivanovic play in India used to seem like a fantasy, but the organisers have turned that into a reality.

The first year of the Coca-Cola IPTL has been a successful one for everyone. The players have enjoyed it thoroughly, as is evident from the camaraderie and the laughs they have shared. The three venues so far have attracted large crowds who lined up in numbers to get a glimpse of their heroes in action.

There has been talk of one or two more teams being added to the tournament next year. If that’s the case, then one can certainly expect more top players to be part of the league, not only from the men’s galaxy of stars but also from the women’s.

Published 10 Dec 2014, 18:38 IST
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