Mahesh Bhupathi’s long-in-the-making IPL-styled tennis league is finally ready to launch, with dates, players and venues fixed from 28th November to December 13th.
The competition will be held across four cities in four countries—Delhi, Manila, Dubai and Singapore—mirroring the four teams Indian Aces, Manila Mavericks, UAE Falcons and Singapore Lions in an unusual format.
Each team will have upto 10 players who will compete in 24 best-of-five round robin matches. Men’s Singles, Ladies Singles, Men’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles and, if required, a Legends Singles tie-break (which sounds the most fun of all) to decide a match.
A remarkable list of players will participate in this league:
Roger Federer will fill in for an injured Rafael Nadal, and will lead the Indian team into this competition. This will be at the end of a jampacked season for the Swiss superstar—who will also compete in the Davis Cup Final (his first) for his own country—after competing in yet another World Tour Finals in London. He will play in Delhi between 7th to 9th December.
The legend will be Pete Sampras, who will have his own army of fans. Sampras and Federer have played on the same team a couple of times for Charity events. France’s in-form Gael Monfils, who will take on Federer in the Davis Cup Final too, is on the Indian Aces team as the second male singles player. Magician Fabrice Santoro will form a part of the doubles team along with Indian doubles-specialist Rohan Bopanna.
The Ladies Singles will be led by Serbian star Ana Ivanovic, who is showing signs of her old self this year, and Mixed Doubles will be led by Indian no. 1 Sania Mirza.
Verdict: A strong team, made up of a bunch of crowd favorites and legends. Whether they will be a match for the youth and current stars of other teams, will be interesting to watch.
Men’s Singles will be led by Brit no. 1 Andy Murray and mercurial Frenchman Tsonga. On their day, they can beat anybody. The legend will be Carlos Moya, who has played in the Chennai Open previously.
All eyes will be on Maria Sharapova though, despite the presence of Belgian Kristen Flipkens and Doubles star Daniel Nestor.
Verdict: The Underdogs. Can’t be counted out due to a powerful mixed-doubles combination.
World no. 1 Djokovic will lead the starpower, followed by Caroline Woznaicki who is fresh from a US Open final appearance—her first Grand Slam Final in three years. France’s Richard Gasquet will be the weak link though. This strong team will further have Doubles specialists Zimonjic and Tipsarevic—a Serbian strongehold—along with upcoming Canadian WTA star Eugenie Bouchard. The legend will be Goran Ivanisevic, fresh from coaching Marin Cilic to a maiden Grand Slam title in New York.
Verdict: On-form favorites, with strong Singles and Doubles specialists. If Gasquet is played in Doubles and Tipsarevic in Singles, it could make for fascinating domination.
Apart from World no. 1 Serena Williams and upcoming Aussie star Nick Kyrgios, pretty much everybody is in the ‘legends’ category—making them an easy team to beat in Men’s Singles. Agassi leads the team with Lleyton Hewitt—one retired and one way past his prime—while Czech star Berdych poses a real challenge. The legend will be Pat Rafter, while Daniela Hantuchova and Brazilian Bruno Soares could be the Mixed Doubles team.
Verdict: Except Serena Williams and maybe Berdych on a good day, everyone else is beatable and exhibition specialists. Nevertheless, they will be a fun team to watch, high on energy and adrenalin.