The recently-concluded Coca-Cola International Premiere Tennis League (IPTL) has managed to create quite a buzz in sports circles. The four-city league has been the talk of the town ever since it was announced. The Indian leg of the IPTL culminated with a fantastic display from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Sports Rediscovered recently got into a small chat with the IPTL founder, Mahesh Bhupathi. In an e-mailed interview, the Indian doubles ace and 12-time Grand Slam winner talks about the success of IPTL, the team bonding that has appealed to the players and also how it will take Indian tennis forward.
SR: Congratulations, Mahesh on putting together a wonderful and innovative concept in tennis. Are you satisfied with the way the crowd has responded to it?
Mahesh Bhupathi: I’m very happy with the response we are receiving. After playing in New Delhi, Novak said he hopes the League continues and really looks forward to coming back next year. Boris Becker, who is one of Novak’s coaches, mentioned that the IPTL is a wonderful way to practice for the new season and that he is having a great time watching matches. Roger said he is very happy that he was able to participate in the event this year. Comments such as these are very encouraging.
As far as the crowds are concerned, the sold out seats, electric atmosphere and delighted teams say it all. We have had a fantastic time at all venues. Fans have accepted the format wholeheartedly and that’s a very rewarding feeling indeed.
SR: Are you thinking of expanding the league? Which are the countries you wish to take the IPTL to?
Mahesh Bhupathi: Yes, we would definitely like to expand the League to other cities in Asia. There is a lot of interest from other cities due to the success of this competition. The goal is to reach eight teams by 2020 but we want to take things one step at a time. We are looking to add one more city next year, which we hope to announce in February 2015.
SR: It was a “once in a lifetime” moment for Indian tennis to see the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic playing in Delhi. How do you see this acting as a springboard for Indian tennis to reach greater heights?
Mahesh Bhupathi: I believe we have the talent in the country. It is critical to tap it at the right time and in the right manner to make it do well. We are certain that bringing tennis’ best players to India will inspire children to take up the sport and pursue their dreams of becoming future champions.
SR: There has been some confusion and criticism over the rules. Are you thinking of making any changes in the next edition?
Mahesh Bhupathi: Once the inaugural edition is over, we will sit down to plan the next. We want to make this a perfect League. That’s the aim. Changes will be brought in if they improve the event.
SR: With tennis being a lonely sport, the team bonding in IPTL seems to have appealed to the players. What are your thoughts on it?
Mahesh Bhupathi: Teams are a very important part of the IPTL format. Tennis is a very individual sport and with a platform like this, it was obvious how much the players have enjoyed these changes and liked the team format. Players feel great when their team is by their side on the players’ bench, cheering their every move. I remember Andy Murray mentioning that he always enjoyed being part of a team, so being able to have that feeling again, in a tennis match will be good.
SR: How do you see this new concept of tennis gaining acceptability on the Tour in the future?
Mahesh Bhupathi: We have launched the format and players and fans have accepted it very well. As Roger said, there is a space for this concept in the sport of tennis.
The first season of IPTL has received an overwhelming response and this event very much looks here to stay. The influx of the tennis stars surely keeps the excitement levels high. Sports Rediscovered wishes Mahesh Bhupathi luck in this unique venture.