As the tennis season ends with the Davis Cup final, it’s time for the IPTL show for the next 10 days, starting tomorrow.
The Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), this year, takes place between 2nd December and 11th December, and is being hosted in three different cities of Asia and in each, for three consecutive evenings. The tournament comprises of 16 league matches and a final between the top two teams in the final standings at the end of the league phase. With the Philippine Mavericks no longer a part of the tournament, the league this time will be confined within four teams – Indian Aces, Japan Warriors, Singapore Slammers and UAE Royals.
The tour kicks off from the Saitama Super Arena in what would be the new home turf of the Warriors before the venue shifts to the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 6th December. The final leg will be competed at another new venue – Gachibowli Indoor Stadium at Hyderabad – which also includes the final on the evening of 11th December. Previously for the first 2 seasons, the Aces used to play at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi where as the Warriors made their debut last year at the Kobe World Hall.
Coming to the players, each team has a squad of 7-8 players, including two retired personnels (indicated in italics). There are only three icon players this time (indicated in bold). The following lists each team and their players.
Indian Aces: Eugenie Bouchard, Feliciano Lopez, Ivan Dodig, Mark Philippoussis, Roger Federer, Rohan Bopanna, Sania Mirza, Thomas Enqvist
Japan Warriors: Fernando Gonzalez, Fernando Verdasco, Jean-Julien Rojer, Jelena Jankovic, Kei Nishikori, Kurumi Nara, Marat Safin
Singapore Slammers: Carlos Moya, Kiki Bertens, Marcelo Melo, Marcos Baghdatis, Nick Kyrgios, Rainer Schuttler, Serena Williams
UAE Royals: Ana Ivanovic, Daniel Nestor, Goran Ivanisevic, Martina Hingis, Pablo Cuevas, Thomas Johnson, Tomas Berdych
Roger Federer returns to his Alma matter (read the Indian Aces) in IPTL along with the person he beat for his first Wimbledon – Mark Philippoussis, the latter replacing Fabrice Santoro. Serena Williams too returns to the Slammers after she played for the now-defunct Mavericks the last season. Martina Hingis too is supposed to make her maiden appearance at the event while her mixed doubles partner Leander Paes is not a part of the tour this time. Tomas Berdych, Nick Kyrgios and Ana Ivanovic feature in the league once again along with local stars retained by their franchises like Rohan Bopanna and Kurumi Nara. However, apart from Federer and Nishikori, none of the other big guns from the ATP are to be seen at the league this season. In contrast, there will be more participation from the retired legends this time – one of the best stages where spectators can and want to see the former players hitting a ball or two for reminiscence. The quality of WTA participation however has not been affected much.
Coming to the tour, as the timeframe has been curtailed to just 10 days this year (it was 16 in 2014 and 19 in 2015), the tour will not go to Dubai and as such, the UAE Royals have to play all their 8 group encounters at foreign venues (remember, last time they had to play an extra game that put in some weird calculations ever made). Further as the final is scheduled on the third evening of the Indian-leg, the Aces (like the Slammers last year) too will be playing a league game less at home than their rivals – the Warriors and the Slammers. As per format, after the round-robin of 16 games, the top two sides will fight out for the title at the final.
Coming to the break-up of a match, the rules remain the same. Both the teams in a tie are set to play five sets involving – a legend’s singles, a men’s singles, a women’s singles, a men’s doubles and a mixed doubles. The order of play is decided by the home team while for the neutral teams in fray, the matter is determined by the winner of the coin toss. Apart from the home team deciding who serves first, a coin toss also determines so between the neutral sides. A set is won by the side that wins 6 games at the earliest, while there will be a 13-point tie-breaker at 5-all. A sudden death point is to be played if there is 6-6 in the shoot-out.
If the trailing team wins the fifth set, the same contestants will continue playing until the leading time wins one game to win the match or the formers equal the overall score and forcing a 19-point super-shootout with a sudden death at 9-all. For a new change in super-shootout, the toss winners will decide the category (unlike till the last year when the shootout used to be a men’s singles format) while the oppositions will decide whether to serve first or return. Coming to more details, there is as usual time restriction in between points, timeouts for strategic consultation, one substitution per set (following special provisions for legend’s and singles set) and one power point per set in which the next point counts double for the receiving player.
The inaugural season of the IPTL had been won by the Indian Aces, where as last year they finished runners-up to the Singapore Slammers. With the general notion of a side being boosted by the presence of their top players in their home league (the factor that arguably helped the Slammers to win the title last season), the Aces can certainly count that advantage in their favour if they can qualify for the final next-to-next Sunday at Hyderabad and win their second IPTL title. The Aces have been the most strong side in the tour since its inception, topping the round-robin standings both the seasons. The Royals too topped the standings on the initial rounds in both the seasons before coming second-best in 2014 and a rung below last time.
No matter the results, the next 10 days will be an exciting extravaganza of tennis with great entertainment quotients.