Is the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL)—an exhibition, to be merciful to organizers—good for Philippine tennis?
No, partly because the players composing the Mavericks are mixed bunch of faded and fading stars.
The team is playing in the Manila stop of the IPTL, with India, Dubai, Japan and Singapore being the other legs (all five swings will take place December 2-20).
According to reports, it will be made up of Filipino-American Treat Huey, Australians Mark Philip¬poussis and Jarmila Gajdosova, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (France), Borna Coric (Croatia), Sabine Lisicki (Germany), Milos Raonic (Canada) and American Serena Williams.
The only exciting player here is Coric, a teenager who has not won any ATP title but is predicted to make news in 2016, and Tsonga, a hard luck kid but a swashbuckling racquet man.
Huey is a concession to the host, Philippoussis is way past his prime (he is past 40), Gajdosova is not making any waves in the WTA tour, Gasquet is a bridesmaid, Lisicki is inconsistent (despite a win against Williams at Wimbledon in 2013), Raonic is a big-serving but boring baseliner and Serena is hurting—the poor sport she has been—after Roberta Vinci dashed her hopes for a calendar Grand Slam at this year’s US Open.
They will be in Manila for, well, the IPTL’s second year, as well as for a break from the punishing ATP and WTA seasons.
The visitors will not be here to promote tennis and, whatever they say, the fact is the leg here and in the other four venues offer good money without them having to sweat it out by actually playing tennis.
Besides, its organizers are likely not to allow Coric or Tsonga to mingle with the fans, a letdown for those paying thousands of pesos for the three-day event here (if you want to make tennis popular, you hold tournaments at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, not at some mall).
They put up a cordon sanitaire last year around Maria Sharapova and the other players so much so that the visitors did not even sign autographs, maybe because the players wanted it that way or the organizers were lacrosse fanatics and did not care about tennis at all.
How I wish for Russian maverick (a real one) Marat Safin to be part of the Mavericks but, no way, because he will be a member of the Warriors who will play in the IPTL’s first stop in Tokyo starting the second day of next month.
For his first Grand Slam title, he humiliated Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open when he was 20.
Then, in 2005, he also humiliated Lleyton Hewitt in the Australian Open in Melbourne for his second Slam (he went on to win scores of top-tier ATP singles title).
Arguably, he was one of the world’s most accomplished and inconsistent tennis players, seemingly hesitating to win by “tanking” but breaking a racquet or two when he is losing, apparently because he wants to.
If Coric was half talented as this six-foot-four from Moscow, then tennis would be in good hands and, to be sure, would never be boring.