• IPTL: Tennis it wasn’t, really

    Mahesh Bhupathi CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Mahesh Bhupathi CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Organizers said the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) inaugural in Manila last week was a success.

    Perhaps, it was, if the supposedly big turnout at the Mall of Asia (MOA) in Manila were the gauge of the understandable euphoria of Mahesh Bhupathi and company.

    The IPTL kick-off also was, if the shrieking autograph hunters milling around Maria Sharapova were another measure of how also supposedly well-received was the brainchild of cricket-mad Indians.

    Broadly, the league wanted to bring the arguably elitist sport of tennis to common folk but this mission was lost in the fact that those who watched, for one, Mladenovic bow to Masha in a one-set only singles match looked anything but ordinary people.

    A single-admission ticket was priced at P2,500 (the minimum wage in the Philippines is just a little more than P400), while a “season” three-day pass cost more than P49,000 (recent surveys showed that many Filipinos had gone to sleep hungry in the last few months).

    Not to shrug off that the Manila leg of the four-city stop of the IPTL (Manila, Singapore, New Delhi and Dubai) was held at the high-end MOA, a place that is out of the way for many jeepney-riding Filipinos, especially at night.

    If it were held at, say, the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, then it would be more accurate for the IPTL people to describe the outcome of the Philippine stop as more than what they had expected.

    This iconic landmark in the nation’s capital is ticket-buyer friendly, having been venue for ice shows, boxing matches, sabong, basketball, beauty contests, etc. seen by the masa.

    But tennis matches? This corner is not really sure if one or two featuring international tennis gods and goddesses had been held there.

    So some mall it was for the IPTL premiere, complete with the antics of Gael Monfils that were reportedly lapped up by the Pinoys who were there and seen on television.

    Come on, real tennis is tennis, with service breaks, deuces, advantages, bagels, and entertainment is entertainment that is better left to artistas and comedians.

    Before the curtains rose on IPTL Manila, the president of the Association of Tennis Professionals or ATP had seemed to mock the new league on the tennis block.

    ATP is the governing body of world men’s professional tennis, its counterpart being the WTA or Women’s Tennis Association.

    In Shanghai last October, ATP chief Chris Kermode described the IPTL as “just a series of glorified exhibitions.”

    “I actually don’t have a problem with it. It isn’t the ATP’s business what the players did in the off-season, even if they criticize the duration of the tour and then jet away to play exhibition events when the curtain falls on the calendar.”

    Indeed, Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic and the others who played in the Manila leg apparently were trying to relax in what this corner sees as a non-competitive stop ahead of real tennis that starts with next month’s first Grand Slam, the 2015 Australian Open.

    I would have preferred watching Maria Sharapova, win or lose, against Serena or whoever, grunts and all, for some real tennis where there are challenges, wide and long shots, double faults, etc.

    And pulot boys and girls and some players under Philta’s guidance who, on second thought, would have found it difficult to afford the pricey IPTL tickets.

    So much for promoting tennis in these parts.


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