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The Indian Premier Tennis League is nothing more than a contrived gimmick

SO it's official:

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have both signed up to take part in the meretricious IPTL. Picture: Getty Sport
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have both signed up to take part in the meretricious IPTL. Picture: Getty Sport

tennis has sold its soul. The players' draft for the newly-formed Indian Premier Tennis League took place last weekend and the big-guns are out in force. Of the top 14 male players in the world, only Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro are missing; on the women's side, eight of the world's top 12 will participate. Andy Murray has signed for Team Bangkok alongside Victoria Azarenka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, among others.

Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the men's world Nos.1 and 2, have signed up and have spoken positively about the concept, although the fact that Nadal will reportedly earn $1m per night means that he was unlikely to be anything less than complimentary. Lets face it, for $1m a night, most of us would be positive about killing Bambi.

It is not just current players who have been enlisted by the four teams either. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Martina Hingis are some of the past champions who will play in the IPTL, as well as Sania Mirza, the Indian superstar. The league, which is the brainchild of the Indian doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi, will run from November 27 to December 14 in four different locations: Singapore, Bangkok, Mumbai and Dubai. Bhupathi has modelled his project on cricket's IPL and has called it the answer to a growing demand for world-class tennis in the Middle East and Asia.

However, even a fleeting glance at the IPTL leads one to the incontrovertible conclusion that the whole exercise is nothing more than a gimmick. It has been invented to line the pockets of the players and the organisers, with little more to be gained from its existence.

Firstly, the format of the matches, which presumably has been developed to try to manufacture excitement and tension during the four rounds of the league, is contrived and meretricious. Each match will comprise one set in each of men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, mixed doubles and legends' doubles. There will be no advantage point and sets will be the first to just five games.

The idea of having each competitor play only one set of tennis may encourage more of the top players to be involved - they know that they are likely to be on court for only an hour or so - but this immediately devalues the matches. While I am sure that Murray will be keen to snatch a victory over Nadal or Djokovic were he to come up against either of them in the IPTL, it is unlikely that he will lose much sleep over it.

This is an insurmountable problem for the IPTL. The magnetic attraction of the grand slam events is that we all know that, in the moment, the result for these players is life or death. That Murray and Federer have both broken down in tears after grand slam final losses illustrates just how much these titles mean to them. It is unlikely that we will see any grown men crying over a loss in the IPTL.

Secondly, the top players have been bleating on for years that their season is too long and arduous. The number of tournaments they are required to play makes it, they say, almost impossible to maintain fitness and form throughout a season. This argument has always been slightly spurious - they are not being asked to work down the mines for 11 months a year - but their keenness to participate in the IPTL, which begins in the immediate aftermath of the men's season, has, in one fell swoop, nullified their case.

While one cannot blame the players for their eagerness to be involved and earn as much money throughout the course of short careers as possible, it is somewhat disheartening to see them give economics priority over sport.

Federer has declined to take part, presumably because, at 32 years old, he feels unable to play infinite amounts of tennis any more and so places greater importance on performing in the majors than in a Mickey Mouse league. Other big-name absentees, like Maria Sharapova and Del Potro, have had serious injury problems and Li Na, Asia's most prominent tennis star, at 32, is also likely to be wary of the amount of tennis she plays.

Murray will play a limited schedule thus ensuring that he is not adversely affected by jet-lag and fatigue which could be detrimental to the vital block of training that he undertakes in Miami every off-season.

If I were a betting person, I'd put money on the IPTL lasting no more than five years. The paying public may be keen to see tennis' top stars but this will have limited appeal when they only appear for only one set of tennis and lack the motivation they possess at the grand slams.

I await the IPTL with baited breath but a tennis revolution, this most certainly is not.

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