Sports

BHUPATHI: IPTL IS THE GOLD CLASS

Others may come, but we are still the "gold class" tournament.

That was what International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) founder Mahesh Bhupathi said, when asked about the formation of other tennis leagues with a similar concept.

On the sidelines of a tie-up between DBS Bank and the Singapore Slammers yesterday, Bhupathi said: "We are just focused on executing our (tournament) and, as far as tennis leagues go, we feel we are the gold class.

"We have the best players in the world and it's the players who drive these (tournaments).

"It's not easy unless you have the right players to pull the interest and... the excitement."

Into its first season, the IPTL is a mixed-team competition that features a shorter and quicker format, with new rules such as a shot clock, a "power point", and shoot-outs.

The tournament will be played in four countries - the Philippines, Singapore, India and the United Arab Emirates - with top current and former stars such as Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Andre Agassi featuring for the four teams.

Bhupathi (above) may have a point on the draw of the star power.

Launched on Monday, the six-team Champions Tennis League, which is based in India, is reportedly failing to attract crowds, despite featuring local heroes such as Leander Paes and international stars such as Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova, and sporting a mixed-team format similar to the IPTL.

But it seems that the IPTL has no such problems, with the DBS Singapore Slammers CEO Vikas Gehlot saying that sales for the Singapore event, at the 12,000-capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium from Dec 2 to 4, are doing well.

He said: "Things are gearing up well; the first day (of competition) is close to being sold out, and things are tracking well for the second and third days."

Bhupathi added: "Unfortunately for other leagues, we've got the best players in the world playing for ours. So, from our perspective, we are very happy."