The Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) is back again. It has already kicked off from 2nd December, 2015. This is the second edition of the league, which is being hosted around five cities in Asia – Kobe (Japan), Manila (Philippines), New Delhi (India), Dubai (UAE) and Singapore. The league, co-founded by former Indian doubles legend Mahesh Bhupathi, aims to take tennis to places which hardly gets any major tournament on the ATP circuit.
A total of five teams will compete for the 19-day extravaganza with Japan Warriors being the new entrant into the list of four other teams – Indian Aces, Philippine Mavericks, Singapore Slammers and UAE Royals – which were part of the inaugural season last year.
A look at the teams (although some of the big names will play only in selective number of legs):
Indian Aces – Fabrice Santoro, Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils, Agnieszka Radwanska, Samantha Stosur, Ivan Dodig, Rohan Bopanna, Sania Mirza.
Japan Warriors – Marat Safin, Kei Nishikori, Maria Sharapova, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Leander Paes, Kurumi Nara, Pierre-Hughes Herbert, Thomas Enqvist, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
Philippine Mavericks – Mark Philippoussis, Serena Williams, Milos Raonic, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Richard Gasquet, Somdev Devvarman, Treat Huey, Ajla Tomljanovic, Jarmila Gajdosova.
Singapore Slammers – Carlos Moya, Andy Murray, Nick Kyrgois, Stan Wawrinka, Dustin Brown, Belinda Bencic, Karolina Pliskova, Marcelo Melo.
UAE Royals – Goran Ivanisevic, Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, Ana Ivanovic, Marin Cilic, Kristina Mladenovic, Daniel Nestor.
Now, a look at the format of the tournament:
- This year due to inclusion of a fifth team in the league, the IPTL league format has gone an awkward change due to limited number of match dates. This time the UAE Royals will play 12 matches while each of the other four teams will play 11 matches. Hence, the league standings will be determined by percentage of games won and lost. The top two in the table will play a one-off final match at the last leg in Singapore on 20th December.
- A tie consists of five sets – Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Mixed Doubles, Men’s Doubles and Men’s Legends Singles.
- The first team to score 6 games will win the set. In case, the teams are leveled at 5-5, a 13-point tiebreaker will decide the winner.
- If two teams are tied for total games won at the end of five sets, a super shoot-out as a 19-point tiebreaker will be played in a men’s singles format. The first team to win 10 points wins the tie and in case of 9-9, the final point wins the super shoot-out.
In addition, there are some other playing rules in IPTL:
- A Shot Clock gives a maximum of 20 seconds between service points, 45 seconds during changeovers and 3 minutes during set-breaks. Any team that runs out the Shot Clock loses a point.
- A Power Point, given one per set, gives the opportunity to the receiving player to count the next point as double.
- A Time-Out, lasting 60 seconds, can be called once per set for strategic discussion with the coach.
As I write this article, the IPTL legs at Kobe and Manila have already concluded. The tournament is presently underway at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, New Delhi. At this point of time, the home team and the defending champions, Indian Aces, are sitting pretty at the top of the standings. But given the format with win-loss percentage of games being the deciding factor, a bad day in office with a heavy loss can unsettle the comfortable equations quite easily.
So in the home leg of the event, the Indian Aces are scheduled to play the UAE Royals coming Saturday on 12th December. The match will also mark the first ever showdown of one of the most famous tennis rivalries between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in India. Previous season, we too had a cracking edge-of-the seat thriller between Federer (then played for the Aces) and world no. 1 Novak Djokovic here, in which Federer prevailed in the tie-breaker.
So coming Saturday at 7:30 pm local time, all the ‘Rafans’ (fans of Nadal) in India will flock into the IPTL stadium to catch a glimpse of a lifetime memory and cheer unconditionally for their favourite Nadal and home team – the Aces. However, there is no dearth of ‘Fedfans’ in India, and one of them is certainly the author of this article. Certainly, they all are in a dilemma. On one side of the court, they will have their evergreen idol who still is a reckoning force even at the wrong side of his thirties, and their home team on the other across the nets. Probably the only time I faced such dilemma was in men’s doubles quarter-finals at the Beijing Olympics 2008, when Federer and Wawrinka got the better of Paes and Bhupathi. Anyways, for me, it’s always the country before any individual and hence may be for the first and last time in my life, I will cheer for Rafa against Roger. And I hope a lot of fellow Federer lovers will turn ‘Rafans’ coming Saturday evening just for the sake of the Aces, assuming such switching of loyalty is acceptable in a tournament that goes with the punch line – ‘Break the code’. But most importantly, all we expect irrespective of the final winner is a match worthy of its caliber.
Are you going to watch IPTL? Let us know what you think about this tournament, in the comments below.
Photo by mirsasha