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After the Pro Wrestling League, the government’s demonetisation drive has claimed another high-profile tournament as its victim. Roger Federer and Serena Williams opted out of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), the organisers said on Tuesday. And the tournament’s promoter Mahesh Bhupathi blamed it on the “current economic climate in India”.
After being relatively successful for its first two years, the IPTL has struggled to generate traction this year after several top players pulled out for a variety of reasons. The organisers were banking on Federer and Williams to salvage the season.
The multiple Grand Slam champions were due to play in the final leg of the IPTL in Hyderabad from December 9 to 11. Federer was to play for the Indian Aces while Williams was to appear for the Singapore Slammers. But the cash crunch in the country has thrown a spanner in the works. Bhupathi said it was getting tough for them to bear the cost of getting the players to India. “Basic logic is if the revenue is not supporting cost then the hole gets too big to manage. Last two years, it did but this year, it’s been very, very slow. Hence the decision,” Bhupathi told The Indian Express.
Earlier, in a brief statement, Bhupathi said he had explained the current scenario in the country to Federer and Williams. “We have had challenges this year, and we were hoping to get past them. With the current economic climate in India and the uncertainty of spending money, I reached out to both Roger and Serena to explain the situation. They have both been very supportive of the IPTL the first two seasons and we look forward to bringing them in future years,” Bhupathi said.
The New York Times, however quoted Federer’s agent Tony Godsick as saying that his withdrawal was due to “some problems and uncertainties surrounding the IPTL this year… but he hopes to play in future years if the IPTL continues,” Godsick added.
There has been a lot of speculation over the multi-city tournament’s future, mainly due to the financial constraints it has been facing. Unlike the previous two years, which saw five teams participating, only three cities are part of this year’s edition. It has also failed to attract the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have played in previous years. And with world number 5 Kei Nishikori also ending his commitments for the year by appearing in the Tokyo leg last weekend, the highest-ranked men’s singles player left in the event is world number 10 Tomas Berdych, who will represent the UAE Royals.