Federer headlines UAE Royals at IPTL

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Star power: Roger Federer (l) and Rafael Nadal.

It is fitting in more than one way that Roger Federer is the man headlining the team that is representing the UAE in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) this week in Dubai.

The Swiss who epitomises tennis royalty is the front-man of the UAE Royals squad that will be battling it out at the Dubai Duty Free (DDF) Tennis Stadium starting on Monday, through December 16, during the league’s three-day stop in the Emirates.

Federer has been using Dubai as his base for many years and considers it his second home. Last February, he captured his seventh ATP title at the DDF Tennis Stadium and the 34-year-old admits it has been “a great hunting ground” for him throughout his career.

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“As I’m based out of Dubai, it was always a wish of mine if I did play the IPTL that I was going to play here,” Federer told reporters in the northern emirate.

“I’m very pumped playing for the Royals here now. We have important matches ahead of us, because we’re not first right now, so we need to catch up and we need to do that quickly.

“It’s important that the IPTL is coming to the UAE, and that we have a great time. I think it’s really worth it to come out to the stadium and see it because it I think you have to see it for yourself to understand what it’s about.

“And give the IPTL a chance, come support it, especially your home team who need your help to get us back to No1 and have a chance to win the trophy.”

The OBI UAE Royals, co-owned by India’s cricket Test captain Virat Kohli, currently lie third behind the Indian Aces and Singapore Slammers in the overall league standings after three legs, which were played in Kobe, Manila and New Delhi.

Federer lost his set to Rafael Nadal in the closing match of the Delhi stop last Saturday, where the Royals were thrashed 30-19 by the Indian Aces.

Dubai is the fourth leg of the five-stop inter-city team competition that is set to conclude in Singapore on December 20, where the top two teams in the standings will face-off in a final.

Federer has been a supporter of the IPTL – now in its second season – from the start as he finds it “creative”. He particularly likes the team aspect of it as he concedes that tennis is often a “lonely” sport.

The world No3 also appreciates the role the league is playing in spreading the game across Asian cities that don’t necessarily get much live tennis throughout the year.

“The Tour decided years ago to go global, so that’s taken away a bit from America which usually is a big player in any sport. But we chose to go global, it has its advantages and disadvantages. It means we go everywhere but we’re not there sometimes for very long.

“That’s why I always enjoyed playing exhibitions and bringing tennis to a new place, maybe South America, or I toured Asia as well with Sampras years ago, with James Blake we did some cool exhos…” he added.

“And now we’re playing the IPTL, I think it would be wonderful if it could stay for a long time because if you think of how many people live in Asia, it’s incredible. It would be nice to see more Asian players coming about and I think this gives a platform for 15, 20, 30 players to be part of it and fans to see us and tennis is on TV.

“I’ve always been a big supporter of tennis in Asia. I opened the Qizhong in Shanghai years ago, I was really happy playing the World Tour Finals there. 2002 was my first time, I went to Bangkok, I went to Tokyo, I played all the tournaments that I could and I don’t regret it one bit.”

Action will kick-off today at 16:00 with the Aces taking on the Warriors before the Royals home team face the Mavericks.

The feature match of the three days will see Federer take on Andy Murray of the Singapore Slammers on Tuesday night.

There will be two matches per day, one at 16:00 and one at 19:30, with each match featuring five sets: Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Mixed Doubles, Men’s Doubles and Men’s Legends’ Singles.

Dubai Leg Squad Lists

OBI UAE Royals

Roger Federer, Marin Cilic, Goran Ivanisevic, Kristina Mladenovic, Daniel Nestor

Micromax Indian Aces

Bernard Tomic, Agnieszka Radwańska, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna, Fabrice Santoro, Ivan Dodig

OUE Singapore Slammers

Andy Murray, Belinda Bencic, Carlos Moya, Nick Kyrgios, Karolina Pilskova, Dustin Brown, Marcelo Melo

Philippine Mavericks

Mark Philippoussis, Treat Huey, Édouard Roger-Vasselin, Jarmila Gajdosova, Somdev Devvarman, Ajla Tomljanovic, Ivo Karlovic

Legendari Japan Warriors

Mirjana Lucic, Kurumi Nara, Marat Safin, Leander Paes, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Thomas Enqvist

Dubai schedule

Monday December 14

16:00 Indian Aces vs. Japan Warriors

19:30 Philippine Mavericks vs. UAE Royals

Tuesday December 15

16:00 Philippine Mavericks vs. Indian Aces

19:30 Singapore Slammers vs. UAE Royals

Wednesday December 16

16:00 Indian Aces vs. Singapore Slammers

19:30 Japan Warriors vs. UAE Royals

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