Hewitt backs plans for tennis premier league
Lleyton Hewitt has endorsed plans for a franchise-based international premier tennis league and hopes to play in the inaugural season slated for late next year.
Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt has endorsed plans for a franchise-based International Premier Tennis League and hopes to play in the inaugural season slated for late next year.
Plans for the tournament were officially announced by India’s 12-time Grand Slam doubles champion Mahesh Bhupathi in Paris last week, with world No.1 Novak Djokovic branding the concept as potentially “revolutionary”.
Rafael Nadal is among other stars seemingly enthusiastic, but Roger Federer was reluctant to back the Pan-Asia concept, which Hewitt admitted he knew little about.
The competition would feature the world’s best players participating for six franchises dotted throughout Asia, with a player auction to be held in Melbourne before the Australian Open in January.
Hewitt liked the idea and said he’d be interested in playing.
“I would definitely look at it, absolutely,” Hewitt said after a first-round loss at the French Open.
“I enjoy playing in Asia anyway. Obviously I have a pretty big following there. My biggest sponsor is Japanese, and obviously had a lot of success in China and Japan in the past.
“… From what I’ve heard, all the top players are pretty keen on it. I think it’s a pretty good idea.”
Having seen the success of cricket’s Indian Premier League, organisers says the IPTL’s foundations bear a similar resemblance to that of its cricketing counterpart.
“Bringing the concept of entertainment to tennis is what I think we’re doing here,” Bhupathi said.
Bhupathi said fixtures would consist of five one-set matches lasting three hours in total, with teams comprised of between six and 10 players and total salaries for each franchise costing between $US4 million ($A4.12 million) and $US10 million ($A10.31 million).
In addition to men’s and women’s singles, men’s doubles and a mixed doubles, a legends singles – featuring the likes of Australian Pat Rafter, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi is planned.
Organisers claim most of the world’s top-ranked players have already agreed to play, with Australian Sam Stosur among those expected to be involved.
Bhupathi claimed at a glitzy launch party in Paris on Friday to have won the backing of Djokovic and Nadal as well as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
But Federer, who is already playing a slimmed-down tour schedule in order to preserve his 31-year-old body, still wants to see more details on the project.
“I think it’s interesting. But nothing changes as a player has to decide how often he wants to play, how many matches he wants to play,” said the Swiss.
“So it’s nice to have another opportunity, and Asia is very strong. I tried to support the market quite a lot when I played in Shanghai when I was No.1. I went to play there quite often. That’s why I think it’s a very good idea.
“But I think it’s still quite far away, so we will see in the future how it goes, but I hope it’s a success for them.”