Low revenues are the main reason behind Dubai’s exclusion from this year’s International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), organisers have revealed.
The third season of the IPTL, which kicks off this Friday, December 2, features a condensed version of the competition that will only visit three cities, compared to five last year, and has one less team taking part.
Four squads – UAE Royals, Indian Aces, Japan Warriors and Singapore Slammers – will compete in Saitama, Singapore and Hyderabad, with the official IPTL announcement on this year’s venues and teams only made a mere eight days before the action starts.
Dubai, which hosted the IPTL in both 2014 and 2015, has been dropped from the schedule, along with Manila. The Philippines Mavericks team is also out of the IPTL.
A failure to attract big crowds was evident in Dubai in the first edition, which took place at the remotely-located Hamdan Sports Complex. Numbers increased when the venue moved to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium at the Aviation Club last season but it was still nowhere near the sellout crowds witnessed in Delhi and other IPTL cities.
“The Dubai team wasn’t able to obtain good revenues in the last two years so they preferred to skip this year and rework their local strategy in order to hopefully come back stronger and better next year,” Benito Perez-Barbadillo, head of communication for IPTL told Sport360.
“We hope this is the case and looking forward to 2017 and have a team back in Dubai.”
While Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are taking part, star names like Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are notable absentees from the line-up.
The late announcement of the league’s teams and schedule, as well as rumours that several players from previous editions have not been paid their fees, led to speculation that the IPTL might not be held this year.
But Mahesh Bhupathi, the founder and managing director of the league, insists the IPTL will continue to thrive.
“Notwithstanding the challenges that have presented themselves over the last few months, we are happy to bring season 2016 – albeit a compact version, to fans of the sport,” Bhupathi said in a press conference in Hyderabad.
“We are deeply grateful to our sponsors, partners, broadcasters, and, in particular, the participating players for their deep belief in the potential the IPTL holds to deliver exceptional value to all stakeholders. This has significantly strengthened the IPTL proposition as well as our resolve to continue to grow this property for the benefit of this sport that I love.”
While Dubai will not play host, the UAE Royals are still in the competition, and are headlined by world No10 Tomas Berdych and ex-world No1 Ana Ivanovic.
Regarding the absence of the Philippines Mavericks, Bhupathi told PTI news agency: “The owners still own the team but there was some political instability there, they were worries about players travelling there.”
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