The International Premier Tennis League 2014 draft was on Sunday in Dubai, as many of the world's top tennis superstars and even past legends signed up to take part in the inaugural tournament. Prolific Grand Slam doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi was the man who backed this idea, and to his benefit, the event has drawn a ton of big names to ensure its success in the thriving United Arab Emirates city.
With so many great athletes taking time to play a part in this epic showcase, which is scheduled between Nov. 28 and Dec. 20, per BBC Sport, five cities throughout Asia were selected as host sites. The four teams will be based in cities and will participate in a unique format.
Each team had roughly £6.6 million to spend during the draft to sign six to 10 marquee players, according to Sky Sports (h/t Naveen Ullal of International Business Times).
Below is a quick overview of the complete list of each team, courtesy of the IPTL's Twitter account:
|Andy Murray||Novak Djokovic||Rafael Nadal||Andre Agassi|
|Victoria Azarenka||Caroline Wozniacki||Pete Sampras||Serena Williams|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||Goran Ivanisevic||Ana Ivanovic||Tomas Berdych|
|Carlos Moya||Janko Tipsarevic||Gael Monfils||Lleyton Hewitt|
|Daniel Nestor||Nenad Zimonjic||Rohan Bopanna||Patrick Rafter|
|Kirsten Flipkens||Martina Hingis||Sania Mirza||Daniela Hantuchova|
|Malek Jaziri||Fabrice Santoro||Bruno Soares|
Source: IPTL Twitter account
It seems as though the players involved are sold on the cause, too. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was pleased to hear that his name was called during the draft for the Bangkok team, where he'll join the likes of Andy Murray among others:
Happy to hear I just got drafted to Bangkok @iptl— Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (@tsonga7) March 2, 2014
A similar sentiment was reflected by Tomas Berdych, who is a part of the Singapore team:
One notable omission from the field is 17-time Grand Slam tournament winner Roger Federer, who just won his first singles title of 2014 in Dubai, but opted not to enter the draft and didn't know how well it would do. All indications are that it's going well, though, and if players such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi can compete, surely Federer will be able to in the years to come.
With such a far away date and the end of his competitive career approaching, it makes sense that Federer played it safe by not partaking. However, he did express optimism about how well the tournament would do based on the appeal to the Asian market, per Times News Network's Prajwal Hegde:
I don't know much about it to be honest. I just didn't sign up because I didn't want to. I first wanted to see it get off the ground. I wanted them to put in the work. They've already signed up a lot of other guys. I hope it's going to be successful, because there is definitely potential in the Asian market, so many people live here, a lot of tennis enthusiasts come from this part of the world. I hope it's going to be very successful. Who knows what's possible?
Which is the best IPLT team?
In that regard, the International Premier Tennis League is a great opportunity to expand the reaches of tennis and take some of the game's modern greats to locations they wouldn't otherwise go to. The format is also unique in that it consists of five sets per match, with one set of men's singles, women's singles, doubles, mixed doubles and a fifth-set battle between legends as a tiebreaker, per Ullal.
The best players still active today were labeled as icons, with the men being Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, Sampras and Agassi. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki were labeled icons on the women's side.
All the talent appears to be rather evenly distributed across the board, with some excellent singles action on tap. It would be great to see legends like Sampras and Agassi battle again, or to see just one set of no-holds-barred action from the elite players who are used to grinding out matches and planning accordingly in three or five sets in the major tournaments.
That should also keep the players fresh and make this more of an attractive competition, based on the lack of physical strain it will take to be involved. What will be most interesting is to see how teams game plan in terms of doubles, because that should ultimately determined who wins overall. It should also see some world-class players in unusual doubles situations if their team must win a set to keep a match going.
All of those factors should result in a great, winning scenario for all involved—including tennis fans in parts of the world less frequented by players of this caliber. Sunday's draft served as another element to the excitement, and the anticipation will build as the 2014 calendar year progresses and many of these players continue writing their respective legacies.