SINGAPORE: The International Premier Tennis League will “bounce back” despite axing Roger Federer and Serena Williams over money problems and dropping from five tournaments to three, its founder told AFP.
Mahesh Bhupathi, who launched the IPTL in 2014, said he was sure “new money” was on its way for the innovative tournament, without specifying where it would come from.
“We’ve had some challenges this year but you know we stayed afloat which was the most important thing so you know, whatever it is, we will bounce back,” he said in an interview in Singapore.
The IPTL, which features a shortened scoring system, shot-clock, cheerleaders, DJs and franchise-based teams is billed as a refreshing update to the traditional tennis format.
But this year’s tournament is missing most of the game’s top players and this week, the IPTL said superstars Federer and Williams were skipping the Indian leg.
Bhupathi initially blamed their absence on chaos caused by India’s withdrawal of 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes from circulation. But he told AFP they were cut to save costs.
“The revenue and the cost wasn’t matching so you know, we didn’t want to go into a big (financial) hole just for the sake of doing it,” said Bhupathi.
“So we thought we would get by with these (other) players and look at the bigger show next year.” He added that both had been “very, very keen to play”.
An initial IPTL schedule for 2016 featured five venues but it was later trimmed to three: Tokyo, Singapore and Hyderabad, with Dubai and Manila dropping out.
News website Inquirer.net said the Philippine Mavericks team owners pulled out because the IPTL was late releasing a tournament schedule and dates for ticket sales.
Like Formula One
But Bhupathi said the IPTL was scaled down not because of financial or logistical problems but after comments from players, who said the tournament was too long.
“Last year we had five cities and the feedback in general from players was it was possibly too long,” he said.
“One of the things we’re dabbling with is doing three cities only every year with probably a few more days in each city and making it rotational.”
He added that moving the Indian leg from New Delhi to Hyderabad also hit difficulties when the proposed venue wasn’t ready in time.
Despite the problems, Bhupathi remains adamant there is still an audience for the IPTL and is eyeing expansion within Southeast Asia over the next five years.
He said his vision was to turn the IPTL into a brand “like the Formula One”, which he said was less reliant on individual stars.
“F1 has build their brand, built their concept and you know they take that amazing show… to new cities and old cities. So I think that’s what we’re looking to do,” he said.
“Regardless of who’s racing, the experience of being there with the music and the entertainment and the fashion it just becomes an event that you want to be part of,” he added.
Bhupathi said the IPTL team owners would sit down after the current season, which concludes in Hyderabad on Sunday, and try to address their problems.
“The new money will come in, we just have to figure out where it is coming from,” he said.