The introduction of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) last year was said to present ‘an exciting new era for international tennis’ and would provide a friendlier, more enjoyable environment for both spectators and players. However, is it wrong to alter a sport as traditional as tennis?
This concept alone presented a new and exciting model to be incorporated into the professional tour, where professionals and ex-professionals would appear in various regions of India and create an exciting, shorter spectacle to operate alongside the ATP and WTA world tour.
The newly founded tennis league is made up of four teams, the Micromax Indian Aces, Manila Mavericks, Musafir.com UAE Royals and DBS Singapore Slammers.
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28 professionals and ex-professionals make up the four sides where they contest five one-set matches over the duration of one day consisting of one male and Women’s singles, one Men's doubles, one mixed doubles and a legends match.
With global stars such as Roger Federer and Gael Monfils who participated in the events debut fixtures, many suggested it’s hard to see how the concept can fail.
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Federer said: “It’s not going to replace how we play the tour but it definitely has a place in our sport to have more interaction, more fun, and different rules.
“You bend it, you customise it, and it works for everyone involved. It’s a very interesting concept,” Federer told the BBC.
The former World no. 1, talking after a representing the Indian Aces in New Delhi last December, did, however, express some concerns.
“My mind was scrambling trying to remember all the rules. It’s crazy, but it’s good fun. I’m very traditional and I like the way the game is on tour. I like the scoring system.”
The competition itself has a very western, American-sport feel to it with its unnecessarily complicated rules. For example, the ‘Shoot-out’ and ‘Super shoot-out’ where a match is tied at five-games all the players must play out a tie-break four minutes in a regular shoot-out and a tie-break for seven minutes in a super shoot-out.
It seems to be an unnecessary rule which raises the question why a standard, and traditional, tie-break or championship tie-break is not sufficient.
The atmosphere that is aimed to be created at an IPTL event is described as ‘fun and enjoyable for all’ however, how is this different to existing competitions such as ‘The Davis Cup’ and ‘FED Cup’? These competitions consist of the same fun but competitive atmospheres and operate by the same traditions that exist in tennis and run alongside the world tour.
It is hard to see how it differs from these, and also how the IPTL could ever replace such events. Although the idea is valued, the IPTL is almost a copy of these competitions, with a more commercial and ‘fun’ aspect in mind.
Tennis has a very long and famous history for being very traditional in its operations, for example the all-white clothing at Wimbledon, the world tour split up by four prestigious grand slams and best of five sets at Grand Slam events; the list is endless.
Therefore, although the competition does present the potential for an alternative aspect to the sport, providing a more enjoyable atmosphere where the crowd can really get behind their team, it appears to create the image of an occasion of less importance and seriousness to the professionals involved.
The competition is set to return to the Philippines at the end of November and will tour Asia for the remainder of the year, however, will it have grown in popularity and recognition? At this stage it is hard to tell. The IPTL creators may find that for the event to truly take off globally and be recognised as a ‘global event’ then they will need to return to the drawing board.