By: Vimal Sankar TN
A day before the New Delhi leg of the inaugural season of the IPTL, both the players and the administrators were forced to deal with a few difficult questions during the press conference. The first of those was to the new league’s CEO Morgan Menahem. “What do you think of ATP chairman Chris Kermode dismissing the IPTL as nothing more than a glorified exhibition?” Menahem, of course, didn’t look amused.
“The ATP has been criticising us for some time now. But I’ll tell you what we’re doing right and give you one example to explain my point,” he said. “Tennis Australia are organising an exhibition match between Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer and they are following the new format. Therefore, it is the right direction for tennis. ATP, WTA, ITF should consider this IPTL format seriously. It is about bringing more excitement and fans to the game.”
The drilling didn’t stop there. A journalist then wanted to know from the current players on the dais — Gael Monfils, Ana Ivanovic, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza — just how they could they could justify playing during the off-season when the big complaint on the circuit happens to be the short length of the yearly break. Menahem decided to answer this as well.
“No one is forced to play in this league. There have been several players we approached in the past who have declined us,” he said. “The ones who are here have seen the benefits of the league and are treating the tennis as a preparatory camp for next year.”
But how can it be preparatory with the changed rules and the league’s promise of entertaining the audience? Eric M. Gottschalk, ITPL’s COO, had an answer. “Look at it this way. These players double up as the best hitting partners during the day and they all go out there and play competitive tennis at night,” Gottschalk said.
Ivanovic, part of the Indian Aces, agreed. “Off season can be tiring otherwise. We normally spend lot of time with our team. Events like these outside your country is a good way to prepare,” she said.
While the administrators did their best to deal with the negatives, the players, such as Ivanovic and Bopanna, did their bit to list out the positives. “It’s great. Being a doubles players, my matches are not shown on TV,” said Bopanna. “Now all these young kids can watch us play, seeing us they can be inspired to pick up the sport.”