Roger Federer and Serena Williams’ much-anticipated return to the courts has been delayed after the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) announced their withdrawal from the team exhibition.
Federer was set to make a soft comeback at the IPTL’s third leg in Hyderabad with a first appearance since Wimbledon last July, while Williams was scheduled to compete in the Singapore leg of the league this week, stepping on the court for the first time since the US Open last September.
IPTL organisers however have stated that financial challenges have forced them to relieve Federer and Williams from their commitment, in what is yet another blow for the third season of the league.
“We are sad to announce that Roger Federer and Serena Williams won’t participate at this year’s IPTL,” Mahesh Bhupathi, the founder and managing director of the IPTL, said in a statement. “We have had challenges this year, and we were hoping to get past them.
“With the current economic climate in India and the uncertainty of spending money, I reached out to both Roger and Serena to explain the situation. They have been both been very supportive of the IPTL the first two seasons and we look forward to bring them in future years.”
Bhupathi was referring to the Indian government’s decision last month to withdraw high-denomination notes from circulation. The government’s so-called “demonetisation” scheme has caused major cash shortages across India, with big queues outside banks now commonplace after authorities placed a daily limit on withdrawals.
The IPTL has had a tough time this year with rumours initially indicating the third season would not take place. But organisers unveiled a truncated version of it just eight days before it kicked off in Saitama, Japan last Friday.
Both Dubai and Manila were axed from the schedule as host cities with the Philippine Mavericks team pulling out of the competition. The three-legged league started in Japan from December 2-4, before hitting Singapore yesterday and will conclude in Hyderabad on December 11.
Other notable absentees from the team rosters include Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Federer, who has been recovering from a knee injury and has not played since a Wimbledon semi-final loss to Milos Raonic five months ago, will now make his return at the Hopman Cup, where he competes alongside Belinda Bencic in Perth starting January 1. Williams’ comeback event will be Auckland, that kicks off on January 2.
Meanwhile, ex-world No1 Ana Ivanovic made her first outing since August yesterday with a 6-3 defeat to Kirsten Flipkens in the women’s singles set of the UAE Royals’ showdown with the Indian Aces in the IPTL Singapore leg.
Ivanovic, whose ranking has slipped to No63 in the world, saw her 2016 season end early due to a recurring wrist injury that kept her out since a US Open first round exit last August.
“It was my first match after a long time and it was quite challenging so I hope I can improve little by little in the next few matches,” Ivanovic said on Tuesday.
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