MUMBAI:As the tennis season is winding down, the International Premier Tennis League is gearing up for another edition that promises much thrills and frills. Express catches up with the man behind it, Mahesh Bhupathi:
Are you looking to add more teams?
Not next year, because of Olympic. We have a lot of interest now from countries as far as Vietnam and south of Sri lanka.
Has tennis fraternity shed skepticism around IPTL?
It’s totally a different ball game now. There’s no more skepticism, from the broadcasters or sponsors or even players. We are in a good place considering where we were last year.
Is it always a danger that matches
lack a competitive edge?
All the matches were competitive last year. We certainly didn’t have any complaints, apart from the last day, when the title was already decided. That was the biggest frustration last year, that’s why we have a final this time.
Two of the biggest names missing from this year’s roster are Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. They weren’t able to win the matches These guys are not in for the fun of it, the owners are here to win the League. Pete and Andre unfortunately were not able to deliver.
Are you looking at throwing younger Indian players like Yuki Bhambri into the mix?
They were in the draft, but did not get picked. You have to understand this is broadcast globally in over 150 countries. So the quality has to be of a certain level or we suffer.
You know how crucial the off season is. Have there been any worries on that front from the players?
Lot of them bring their trainers with them. Most of them are bringing their physios, practice partners. They don’t compromise on their off-season training.
Is IPTL a huge event there because they don’t have any tour events?
Cost-wise, buying a tour event, which is a 250, considering the kind of line up that you will get versus the kind of line up you will get here, with 30 players, men, women and legends coming, the investment is not so far away.
How big a catch is Leander Paes?
He is an entertainer. He loves playing on the big stage. Playing in front of the full house every night is going to be exciting for him and fans. Plus he has been successful in the format. He’s won the World Team Tennis five years in a row.
Are teams looking to have a permanent base, or a home stadium?
A unique thing about our format is one team per country. So for countries like China, Japan and India, being able to move it will make them more money in the long run. There are only so many times you can take Roger (Federer) to Delhi and excite the fans to pay that much. But if you rotate to Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai, or even other cities, these people will be able to keep it fresh.