Djokovic and Wozniacki to represent Dubai in inaugural IPTL

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Strong line-up: Novak Djokovic will represent Dubai in the IPTL.

Dubai has been named as one of the four cities that will play host to the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) and the team based here will be headlined by world No2 Novak Djokovic.

Four teams were drafted on Sunday at the Oberoi Hotel in the northern emirate with Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras picked for team Mumbai, Serena Williams landing in team Singapore and Andy Murray and Victoria Azarenka are set to play for team Bangkok.

Djokovic will be joined by former world No1 Caroline Wozniacki, ex-Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, Serbian No2 Janko Tipsarevic, doubles star Nenad Zimonjic, five-time Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis and Arab No1 Malek Jaziri.

“We’ve got some unbelievably strong teams. I think out of the 27 players that got drafted we have about 21 Grand Slam champions. We have 14 present and past No1s. It’s a pretty blockbuster field,” IPTL Managing Director, Mahesh Bhupathi told Sport360°. 

The team owners are yet to be revealed and venues have not been finalized yet.

The draft took place in the presence of undisclosed team owners, Bhupathi, IPTL CEO Morgan Menahem, IPTL COO Eric Gottschalk and former world No1 Carlos Moya, who will be the VP of Player Relations for the league.

A total sum of $23,975,000 was raised for the four teams on Monday.

Organisers are calling the IPTL “the answer to a growing demand for world class tennis in the Middle East and Asia” and it’s set to take place from November 27 to December 14, 2014.

FULL TEAM LINE-UPS

Mumbai:

Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras, Ana Ivanovic, Gael Monfils, Rohan Bopanna, Sania Mirza and Fabrice Santoro. 

Bangkok:

Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Carlos Moya, Daniel Nestor and Kirsten Flipkens. 

Singapore: 

Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, Tomas Berdych, Lleyton Hewitt, Patrick Rafter, Daniela Hantuchova, Bruno Soares and Nick Kyrgios. 

Dubai: 

Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Goran Ivanisevic, Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonjic, Martina Hingis and Malek Jaziri. 

SCHEDULE

Singapore: November 28 – 30
Bangkok: December 2 – 4
Mumbai: December 7 – 9
Dubai: December 11 – 14

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IPTL announce star-studded line-up ahead of Dubai draft

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Leading the way: Worlds No1 and 2 Nadal & Djokovic will both compete in the IPTL.

Top stars including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Serena Williams have been confirmed as participants in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), after organisers announced a field of 70 players yesterday.

The IPTL, an exhibition league set to take place from November 28 to December 20 this year, will consist of five franchise teams based in Asian cities – believed to be Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

A player draft will take place in Dubai at the Oberoi Hotel tomorrow, where team owners will be competing over the players, which have been grouped into categories based on their status, asking fee, and level of commitment to matches.

Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka, and legends Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, along with WTA stars Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki belong to the category coined ‘Icon Players’.

The rest of the active players are divided across categories A through D while two more categories are dedicated to past champions and doubles players.  

Notable absentees from the player field announced are Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova.

“I just didn't sign up because I didn't want to,” Federer told reporters earlier in the week. “I just first wanted to see it get off the ground. I wanted them to put in the work. They already signed up with a lot of other guys. 

“I hope it's going to be successful, because there is definitely potential, you know, in the Asian market, so many people live here, a lot of tennis enthusiasts come from this part of the world.”

Others competing in Dubai this week like Berdych and Djokovic have supported the project with the former calling it “ambitious” and the latter saying it was a “fantastic concept”.

“It's going to promote tennis in the Asian part of the world,” said Djokovic. “That is a huge market. It's a fun concept. It lets the players enjoy in the court and off the court together. It's something that we don't get to see that much – the kind of concept of the teams.”

Five-time Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis has been surprisingly placed in Category C alongside the likes of Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova but organisers have explained to Sport360 that it is because of her low asking price and her commitment to a less matches than those in higher categories.

To understand the IPTL in more detail, check out Sport360's exclusive interview with IPTL CEO Morgan Menahem

FULL LIST OF PLAYERS

MEN

Icon Players:
Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray
Stanislas Wawrinka
Andre Agassi
Pete Sampras 

Past Champions:
Patrick Rafter
Goran Ivanisevic
Mark Phillipoussis 
Fabrice Santoro
Juan Carlos Ferrero
Rainer Schuettler
Michael Chang
Carlos Moya

Category A:
Tomas Berdych
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
David Ferrer

Category B:
Richard Gasquet
Milos Raonic
Tommy Haas
John Isner
Gael Monfils
Lleyton Hewitt

Category C:
Jerzy Janowicz
Philipp Kohlschreiber
Aleksandr Dolgopolov
Marcos Baghdatis
Fabio Fognini
Feliciano Lopez
Fernando Verdasco

Category D:
Kevin Anderson
Marinko Matosevic
Sam Querrey
Marcel Granollers
Dmitry Tursunov
Somdev Devvarman
Janko Tipsarevic
Rendy Lu

Doubles Players:
Bruno Soares
Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi
Alexander Peya
Marcin Matkowski
Marcelo Melo
Mariusz Fyrstenberg
Marc Lopez
Daniel Nestor
Rohan Bopanna
Robert Lindstedt
Nenad Zimonjic

WOMEN

Icon Players:
Serena Williams
Victoria Azarenka
Caroline Wozniacki

Category A:
Agnieszka Radwanska

Category B:
Ana Ivanovic
Samantha Stosur
Sloane Stephens

Category C: 
Sara Errani
Jelena Jankovic
Angelique Kerber
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Martina Hingis
Daniela Hantuchova

Category D:
Sabine Lisicki
Kirsten Flipkens
Alize Cornet
Kristina Mladenovic
Su-Wei Hsieh
Francesca Schiavone
Flavia Pennetta
Sania Mirza
Donna Vekic

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Halep confidence at all-time high after clinching Doha title

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Triumphant: Halep (r) heads to Dubai off the back of victory in Doha.

Simona Halep believes her confidence is at an all-time high after the young Romanian captured her biggest title to date, cruising past Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3 to win the title at the Premier 5-level tournament in Doha.

Halep, a former junior world No1, has now won seven titles in the past nine months, and the 22-year-old is hoping to achieve bigger things on bigger stages.

“I think I can play at a higher level now. I believe in my chance. I believe in my game,” said Halep after her win. “Mentally I am strong. I feel confident on the court. Now I want just to think about my game and to think maybe if it's possible to make semi-finals at Grand Slams. I know that will be very tough, but I will work hard for that.”

The No7 seed almost crashed out of the tournament in her first match against Kaia Kanepi, who was leading Halep 5-3 in the final set before the Romanian came back to win in the tiebreak.

“I called my coach on court. I told him ‘it's over, I lost the match’” revealed Halep. “But he said that I can win and then, after that match, I was very confident with my serve. I believed that I had my chance here in this tournament. I was fighting for every point and just tried to find my game again.”

And that confidence showed from the very start of Sunday's final as Halep first took advantage of a double fault to break Kerber to love in the opening game, before breaking again with a sharp-angled cross court winner that drew the error from the German to cruise ahead 4-1.

Serving for the set in the eighth game, Halep had to save three break points before taking a one-set lead thanks to a netted backhand from Kerber on her second set point.

Kerber had a talk with her coach Benjamin Ebrahimizade between sets, burying her face in a towel and desperately trying to regroup, and she stepped on the court to hold comfortably in the opening game of the second set.

Halep had to save a break point to hold for 1-1 and just when it looked like Kerber was finding her shots and setting up net approaches nicely, the German was broken in the fifth game on a backhand volley winner from her diminutive opponent.

Kerber upped the pressure on Halep in game eight, but the Romanian came up with a fearless down the line forehand winner at 30-30, that clipped the line to give her a game point, and she held for a 5-3 lead with a service winner.

Serving to stay in the match, Kerber hit a down the line backhand wide to give Halep her first championship point and the German let nerves take over, double-faulting to hand over the trophy to her opponent.

“I can’t believe that I won this tournament because I was coming from indoors, playing Fed Cup, so I’m really happy and I have to enjoy this moment because it’s the best moment of my life,” said Halep, who will move up one spot to No9 in the rankings today.

“It’s the highest confidence I have in myself.”

Kerber, who will be ranked No8 today, was still happy with her week despite suffering a second final lost of the season.

“I think I was trying to play what I could today, and I think I made too many mistakes at the beginning of the match and made too many easy ones, but I think Simona was playing very well.

"She played the whole week on a high level. I think she deserved to win the title. I give everything I could and I'm still happy about the week,” said Kerber, who lost the final in Sydney earlier this year.

Both Halep and Kerber have arrived in Dubai today. Halep opens her campaign in the UAE against Alize Cornet while Kerber faces Ana Ivanovic.

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