Nadal and Serena in, Federer and Sharapova out for new offseason league
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are among the 70 players in the field for the new International Premier Tennis League.
Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Li Na, however, were not on the entry list released Friday.
The IPTL's debut season is scheduled to run from Nov. 28-Dec. 20, after the 2014 tennis season ends. The IPTL follows a team-based format similar to that of World Team Tennis. ATP and WTA singles players, ATP doubles teams and ATP legends (including Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras) will be divided among five teams that will be based in Mumbai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and one yet-to-be-named city. The player draft is scheduled for Sunday in Dubai.
Federer, the sport's biggest draw among fans and sponsors, said he prefers to see how the first year goes before committing his offseason time.
“Firstly, I want to see whether it takes off or not. I know a lot of people have invested in it or are part of it," he told Gulf News. "Anywhere where tennis grows is a good thing, so I hope it takes off and becomes very successful. In Asia, there is enormous potential [for tennis to grow], in places like China and India due to the amount of people that live there and the excitement they have for tennis.”
The IPTL is the brain child of Indian doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi. When the venture was announced last year, players were enthusiastic about earning extra money during the offseason. But the league also been met with some skepticism.
"I think it will be great for tennis if it can be pulled off," Max Eisenbud, who represents Sharapova and Li, told CNN. "I just don't see how it could ever work, but I hope I am wrong."
The biggest questions surrounding the IPTL are how it can lure and pay the game's top players (read: television deals) and what effect the league will have on the regular tennis calendar. (One report says Nadal could be paid $1 million a night.) Players have been complaining for years about the length of season, which runs from the end of December to late November. With a two-month offseason -- which shrinks to only four weeks for Davis Cup finalists -- will IPTL participants get enough time to rest and recuperate for the next season? Players will have a hard time finding a sympathetic ear if complaints about injuries and fatigue rack up next year in Australia among those chasing money during their off time.
Here's a list of notable players who have confirmed their participation:
Men: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Milos Raonic, Tommy Haas, John Isner, Gael Monfils, Lleyton Hewitt, Jerzy Janowicz, Feliciano Lopez, Fabio Fognini, Sam Querrey. Women: Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Sara Errani, Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur, Martina Hingis, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sabine Lisicki, Sania Mirza.