World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will turn out for team Mumbai in the inaugural edition of the multi-million dollar International Premier Tennis League while Novak Djokovic was snapped up by team Dubai and Andy Murray by team Bangkok.
Four teams were drafted for the ambitious tournament, created by Mahesh Bhupathi, on Sunday in Dubai. Nadal, who will reportedly be paid a whopping $1.1 million per night by IPTL, will be accompanied by Pete Sampras, Rohan Bopanna, Sania Mirza, Ana Ivanovic, Gael Monfils and Fabrice Santoro in the Mumbai team. Serena Williams was picked by team Singapore while Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki were picked up by team Bangkok and Dubai respectively.
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The Mumbai leg of the round-robin tournament will be held on December 7, 8 and 9 at a yet-to-be-decided venue. Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka, David Ferrer, Agnieszka Radwanska, Jelena Jankovic and Somdev Devvarman were among the notable players who did not find any takers. However, they can still be a part of the event as the team owners still have the option of making additions to their squads with a maximum of 10 players are allowed.
The organisers said just under USD 24 million were spent by the teams on the 28 players who were sold but details of individual deals were not revealed. The identity of the owners too has been kept a secret. It is also not known how often the leading stars such as Murray and Nadal will actually play. Murray had previously said he was happy to play some but not all the matches but whether the smaller format will change his view remains to be seen. It was the same case with Nadal and Djokovic, who were not keen to play for the entire duration of the tournament.
The inaugural edition will be a four-team event instead of five as announced earlier. Kuala Lumpur, which was put forward as a possible venue earlier, had to be dropped from the first edition. There organisers did not specify any reasons for the same.
All four teams will compete in one of the cities over a three-day period before moving onto the next. The format will see a total of 24 matches played, with the first on November 28 in Singapore and the last on December 13, making it a shorter season than originally planned. A full fixture list is yet to be announced.
A total of 70 players had put their names forward for the auction. The draft took place in the presence of undisclosed team owners, Bhupathi, CEO Morgan Menahem, COO Eric Gottschalk and former world No. 1 Carlos Moya, who will be the VP of Player Relations for the league.
Bhupathi, the co-owner and managing director of the league, said the tournament is an answer to a growing demand for world class tennis in the Middle East and Asia. “We’ve got some unbelievably strong teams. I think out of the 27 players that got drafted we have about 21 Grand Slam champions. We have 14 present and past No1s. It’s a pretty blockbuster field,” Bhupathi was quoted as saying by Dubai-based website Sport360°.
Some players like Roger Federer have opted out of the tournament (see box) because it falls in the off-season, a time the professionals dedicate for rest and recuperation as have other top professionals like Maria Sharapova.