The first season of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) was a spectacle, captivating tennis lovers across Asia. The code-breaking format, which promised to make tennis fast-paced and enthralling, witnessed the presence of world’s top stars like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
The tournament gave people the opportunity to see their favourite stars up close and increased engagement between fans and players.
The second edition of the multi-nation league, which starts on December 2 and will conclude with a grand finale on December 20, will feature five teams with the Japan Warriors joining the quartet of the Indian Aces, the UAE Royals, the Philippine Mavericks and the Singapore Slammers.
For fans in India, a major highlight this year is a much anticipated encounter between long-standing on-court rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The fans will get to witness this marquee match-up when the Indian Aces face the UAE Royals in Delhi on December 12.
IBNLive.com caught up with Indian tennis ace and IPTL co-founder and Managing Editor, Mahesh Bhupathi, who, like all the tennis lovers, is equally excited about the second season.
"Expectations are similar. We are happy that the fans are excited that Season 2 is round the corner and what we are trying to build is what fans are looking forward to it, coming back year after year, and fan loyalty. At the end of the day, it’s the Indian Aces, no matter who's playing for the team,” Bhupathi said.
“Owners are making the experience a lot better this time,” he added.
Last year, the IPTL revamped the traditional tennis format with single-set matches to speed up games, giving fans the opportunity to experience tennis between 24 different players competing in one evening across various match combinations consisting of singles, doubles, mixed-doubles and legends sets. Other unique aspects that will re-appear in this year's edition include Happiness PowerPoints, shoot-outs, a running shot clock and exciting in-game live music and entertainment.
Bhupathi, who conceptualised the league, said it's tennis's version of T20 cricket.
“We have developed the concept. It is fast and it's like Twenty20 cricket. People watch it, it's time sensitive, 3 hours. Nobody kind of asks questions about changing anything. It's been accepted around the world. So that's what we are trying with tennis and it was well received last year,” he said.
Tennis in India has received a major boost recently when two of the country’s best doubles players in Leander Paes and Sania Mirza and a 17-year-old boy Sumit Nagal won the men's doubles, women's doubles and boys doubles Wimbledon 2015 titles with their respective partners.
When asked about IPTL's contribution to Indian tennis, the former world No. 1 doubles player said: “The team owners have some plans and they have been discussed with the federation as well, I think not only in India but across all the regions. I know that the Philippines team has actually started a mini IPTL with Singapore. They are doing a couple of junior events,” he said.
“So all the cities are tying up with the federations to do some kind of junior programmes and as an when they announce it, you will get the news,” he added.
Bhupathi also said that like many of the Indian fans, he also hopes to see India producing a top singles players.
“Like you, I am a tennis fan. So I am also waiting to see. Hopefully, sooner rather than later we will be able to see top singles player in India,” he said.
Apart from the Federer-Nadal clash, there’s another high point for the Indian fans in this year’s edition.
Bhupathi’s former doubles and the vintage Leander Paes will make his debut in this year’s IPTL. Bhupathi, who parted ways with Paes in 2011, said he always knew that his former partner will join his league.
“I don't need to comment. I have known that for a long time [that Paes will join]. I am very happy to have him and looking forward to it,” he said.