It’s that time of year again, when we think the tennis season is over as the players hide themselves away to recover from the year’s competition. The renewed assault on the world’s top tennis tournaments officially starts in Brisbane, Doha & Chennai from January 4.
However, this is not the case as the International Premier League Tennis began just four days ago. The second edition of this off-season tournament pits five teams against one another in a round-robin format.
Competing across five countries until December 20, the world’s top players go head to head in this tennis extravaganza including the teams: The Indian Aces, Japan Warriors, Philippine Mavericks, Singapore Slammers and The UAE Royals.
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We have seen sporting tournaments head to the far East and the Middle East for its large fan base and the gains of hosting popular sports tournaments in wealthier countries. The IPTL - Sponsored by Qatar Airways and Coca- Cola - has become tennis’ new end of year sensation.
However, some within the sport are questioning the integrity of the tournament, believing some of the players are sacrificing their off-season to reap the financial rewards offered. Last week saw Novak Djokovic withdraw from the tournament citing fatigue and within a matter of hours the news was released that two current top ten players and grand slam winners were instantly snapped up to replace him.
Andy Murray, who had not previously included this tournament into his schedule was due to take some time off before beginning his pre-season training in Dubai and Stan Wawrinka, coming from a solid season and semi-final showing at the ATP World Tour Finals showdown.
Alongside these superstars, the IPLT has drawn the biggest names in the sport: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and Simon Halep, as well as enticing veterans such as Marat Safin and Carlos Moya to pick up a racquet.
This is not the first instance of the financial rewards taking precedence over the player’s planned schedule. For example; When Federer announced at last minute he would play the inaugural Istanbul Tennis Open 2015, he received more financially for an “appearance fee” than the total prize money for the winner of the tournament - which coincidentally he won.
This year also saw the Wimbledon first round prize money boosted to £29,000 in an attempt to support the less financially stable players on tour. Those playing at lower levels often struggle to break even, with only one other option available; to play the higher standard tournaments due to their higher financial commitment.
Even higher level tournaments are struggling, this year saw the Valencia Open - previously a 500 ATP point tournament - bow out due to its financial crisis. Where is the line drawn? How can such investment be made into tennis to support those at the top but not maintain a strict level of professionalism towards the game?
After continuous debate surrounding the demanding tennis schedule, asking players to play several legs of a tournament from country to country and risk injuries while losing the chance to rest and prepare for the new season is strictly not ethical. This is the problem with companies using their financial superiority to attract players to their tournaments by giving players offers impossible to refuse.
Also, by feeding off the players wishes to please their global fan bases and be as prepared as possible for the year coming, The Association of Tennis Professionals cannot sit back and allow nothing to be done in this instance.
Above everything else, consideration needs to be given to the player’s health as much as the integrity and ethics of these tournaments, requiring them to step in, put their foot down and restore normality back to the tennis circuit.
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