NEW DELHI: The last three weeks have been exciting times for Indian tennis fans. In a sport famed for its individualistic pursuits, it’s been raining leagues akin to a three-course dinner. Vijay Amritraj’s India-based Champions Tennis League (CTL), featuring Grand Slam winners, was the appetiser.
Then the Maharashtra-based Premier Tennis League, in its third edition, grabbed the baton, showcasing the main course — young Indian talent at the nation’s beck and call. On Saturday, Mahesh Bhupathi’s Asia-based International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), stuffed with some all-time legends, will be presented as dessert.
The resultant experience has been special not just for fans, but for coaches, players and officials as well. Even though only two Indians – Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza – are part of IPTL, the question on everyone’s mind is if something like this can bring about a sea change in the way people look at this niche sport. Could it really benefit the Indian tennis community?
Olympian Vishnu Vardhan feels positively about the combined impact of the trinity. “All the leagues have a particular focus. It is not one but three variations of a similar formula that will appeal to all and sundry,” he said.
Another current player, Ramkumar Ramanathan, the second-highest ranked singles player in the country, echoes similar sentiments albeit with different words. “It can help us because of the exposure it is bound to get, with world famous players involved. The team format is a lovely touch because it’s a rarity,” he opined.
Then, there are stalwarts that have seen a lot and been part of even more, who couldn’t be happier than to see youngsters rub shoulders with greatness. Renowned coach and Davis Cupper Akhtar Ali is part of that group. “It’s wonderful for India to be at the centre of so many leagues. Arranging for so many good players to make appearances is an arduous task. Youngsters will absorb so much by just being around these legends. It’s a win-win situation.”
Shiv Prakash Misra, a former Davis Cup skipper, felt those backing such events would quickly realise that world class players present together at a given place, would raise awareness for the sport. “It also makes sponsors understand the need and value of these events. IPTL’s tickets being sold out so quickly is testament to that fact.”
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) had backed CTL to the hilt and emphasised on its unique format when it was launched. Although there’s no such tie up with IPTL, the organisation is sure of its success. “We are confident that Mahesh’s league will prove to be incredibly popular. With its line-up, it ought to,” an AITA official mentioned.
Even so, there are those who’re a bit wary of being so gung-ho about this sort of thing. “All these things have shelf lives. Let’s see if IPTL is still running three years down the line. Until then it’s all speculation,” a source warned.
All said and done, the final result could be worth the wait.