IPTL format making waves
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The unconventional tournament format of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) has brought increased attention to the sport all over the world and even as only Asian countries are so far involved, players from across the globe are toasting the dawn of a new era which according to Rafael Nadal, has created “a whole new ball game” and Maria Sharapova described as “no regular game of tennis.”

With its second season set to start in Kobe for the first of five legs on Dec. 2, the IPTL is looking forward to a bright future. Qatar Airways recently signed a three-year agreement as a presenting partner and Coca-Cola remains the title sponsor. From four teams in the inaugural season, the IPTL has added a fifth franchise with the Japan Warriors expected to make a splash bannered by Sharapova, world No. 8 Ken Nishikori and Russian legend Marat Safin who topped the US Open in 2000 and the Australian Open in 2005.

IPTL Manila project head Clem Apacible of SM Prime Holdings said the Philippine franchise holder, Match Point International Tennis Events, Inc., has a 10-year commitment to participate in the annual event and has plans to adopt the tournament format in competitions nationwide. “It’s an exciting format and from what we know, Match Point intends to organize tournaments using this format down the road,” said Apacible. “The format is revolutionizing tennis and this could spark renewed interest in the sport. Surely, the IPTL experience is very encouraging.”

A typical IPTL match is played to five sets broken down into men’s singles, women’s singles, mixed doubles, men’s doubles and men’s legends singles. The team that wins the most games at the end of the five sets takes the match. The home team decides the order of play, depending on its assessment of strengths and weaknesses. There is strategy involved in determining which set is played ahead of the others. In the case of two neutral teams competing, a coin toss will settle which of the opposing squads is to pick the order of play.

Each set is a straight-to-6 point affair with no ad scoring. A team is allowed one substitution a set. During a set, a doubles player may be replaced by another doubles player, singles player or legend. A singles player may be substituted by another singles or a doubles player. A legends player may be replaced only by another legends player. In case a player is injured and there is no available substitute, the team loses the set with the winning squad receiving a total of six points for that set.

Manila will be the second leg this season with matches scheduled on Dec. 6-8 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena. Apacible confirmed that 30 players are arriving here to see action and will be billeted at the Nobu Hotel in the City of Dreams. Among the players booked for Manila are world No. 5 Nadal and women’s world No. 1 Serena Williams who will anchor the Philippine Mavericks.

The first day on Sunday, Dec. 6, will pit Japan against Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) against the Philippines. India faces UAE and Japan plays the Philippines on the second day, Monday, Dec. 7. Singapore battles UAE and the Philippines duels with defending champion India on the third day, Tuesday, Dec. 8. Only the Philippines and UAE are scheduled to play three days in the Manila leg while the other teams play twice.

The IPTL cast is star-studded with six of the top 10 male players in the ATP rankings in rosters. They are No. 1 Novak Djokovic with Singapore, No. 3 Roger Federer with UAE, No. 5 Nadal with India, No. 6 Tomas Berdych with UAE, No. 8 Nishikori with Japan and No. 9 Richard Gasquet with the Philippines. Other ATP-ranked players in the IPTL are No. 13 Marin Cilic with UAE, No. 14 Milos Raonic with the Philippines, No. 22 Gael Monfils with India, No. 30 Nick Kyrgios with Singapore and No. 39 Vasek Pospisil with Japan.

Marquee players are guaranteed to play when their teams are at home and in at least one more leg. Nadal, for instance, will play only in New Delhi and Manila. His India teammates are WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) world No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, 42-year-old French legend Fabrice Santoro, Ivan Dodig, Monfils, Rohan Bopanna and WTA world No. 1 doubles player Sania Mirza.

With the Mavericks, Williams is joined by 38-year-old Australian legend Mark Philippoussis, Gasquet, Raonic, Sabine Lisicki of Germany, Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia and Fil-Am doubles specialist Treat Huey.


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