| Rafael Nadal |
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is understood to be the highest-profile player committed to the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). The new competition, developed along the lines of the successful Indian Premier League, will launch this coming weekend with an auction in Dubai.
Nadal could earn $1m a day for his contribution as one of the ‘marquee’ players in a scheme developed by Mahesh Bhupathi. According to the ground rules, players who have been No. 1 or who have won a Slam will be able to nominate which matches they play, and which to avoid.
The competition will be staged between November 28 and December 20 in five cities — Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Singapore and Hong Kong — and each team will bid for their players on Sunday at a Dubai hotel. There are at least three players of the women’s top-10, led by the two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who are also understood to have committed to the project.
The former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and the Polish No. 1 Agnieszka Radwanska are believed to have put their names down but Roger Federer is not thought to be involved. As for Andy Murray, he is still in discussions with Bhupathi, who briefly had a role on Murray’s commercial team last year before he became too involved in this project and set off on his own path.
The IPTL has had a troubled gestation but one tennis insider said on Monday that “although the players are still sceptical, nobody wants to miss out on a possible money spinner, so a lot of them are putting their names down for Friday’s reveal. When the money starts being paid into their accounts, that’s when they will start believing that this concept is for real”.
The ambitious IPTL was launched in Melbourne on the sidelines of the Australian Open earlier this year, with Lleyton Hewitt the first to come on board.
“I have heard of the many ideas being added to the league and I am excited to have confirmed my participation. I wait to see whose team I am on, I do not have any preferences as I know there are a lot of fans waiting to see world-class tennis in all cities,” Hewitt had said.
Bhupathi said they are looking to bring quality tennis along with entertainment for the fans.
“We have been working relentlessly to formulate and deliver a concept that not only meets global expectations of excellence, but also provides quality tennis coupled with entertainment. We have confirmed team owners in five of Asia’s biggest markets,” Bhupathi said.
Each of the five teams will comprise between six and 10 players, with a salary expenditure between $4 million and $10 million per team.