Roger Federer and Pete Sampras share 31 grand slam titles and are the highest and second-highest men’s grand slam winners in tennis. But except for a few charity matches, tennis lovers have not seen them play together in a tournament.
The duo are now set to play together for Indian Aces, a team owned by Micromax, in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).
IPTL, designed on the lines of cricket tournament Indian Premier League, will be in four cities across the globe between November and December. It has roped in Novak Djokovic, Andre Aggasi, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams, Gael Monfills and Lleyton Hewitt.
The Singapore team is owned by a group involving Shashi Kiran Shetty, owner of Allcargo Global. Two teams from Manila and Dubai are part of the event.
“Federer is a superstar. He has a lot of supporters in India. Rafael Nadal could not join us since he has been injured,” said Mahesh Bhupathi, founder of IPTL. Nadal was set to play for the Indian team.
“The deal with Federer was clinched during the US Open. During the first year, he will play for Aces, and in the seasons after that, the team will have a first right over him when the players come up for bidding again,” said Eric Gottschalk, chief operating officer. The tournaments will be played at Manila, Singapore, Delhi and Dubai and the India leg will be from December 6 to 8 at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Delhi.
“The tickets will go on sale from early October. We expect the India and the Philippines teams to break even in two-three years since we expect huge response from both the countries,” said Bhupathi.
Sources said the STAR network had bagged telecast rights in India. Bhupathi refused to comment on the broadcaster.
The teams will compete in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and mixed doubles and a men’s legends singles with one set per match, and no advantage scoring. Britain’s Andy Murray will lead the Manila Mavericks, while former American player Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic will lead Singapore Slammers and Dubai-based UAE Royals, respectively.
According to the organisers, the teams will get funds from IPTL for broadcast and sponsorship rights, apart from individual sponsors. “There is a central pool for sponsorship and broadcasting rights. The teams will get funding from individual sponsors and ticket sales,” Gottschalk said.
The ITPL offers $ 1 million in prize money, while the player fees are expected to be more than that. The teams will play 24 matches in a round-robin format (every team will play every other team) to determine the inaugural IPTL League Champion from November 28 to December 13. All teams will compete in five single-set matches.
Champions Tennis League, launched by Vijay Amritraj, will be played in India in November and will have six domestic teams.