Blog

Tennis goes Bollywood for a new league of its own

  Mahesh Bhupathi, founder of the new International Premier Tennis League, in action at the US Open in 2009. Photograph by Robbie Mendelson

Mahesh Bhupathi, founder of the new International Premier Tennis League, in action at the US Open in 2009. Photograph by Robbie Mendelson

“Team tennis” would seem to be an oxymoron but not these days. Witness the new International Premier Tennis League, which features former and current stars in four cities – Dubai, Manila, New Delhi and Singapore. The league, founded by Indian doubles champ Mahesh Bhupathi and modeled after cricket’s Indian Premier League, just finished the third leg of its tour, in Delhi. The season concludes Sunday, Dec. 14 in Dubai.

Already there’s been a lot of criticism – players are always complaining about the length of the season so why would they want to play in early December; tennis is an individual sport so what’s the point of a team approach; the scoring makes no sense (whoever wins the most games, wins) and you need a scorecard to tell the players.

Is that Novak Djokovic in for Marin Cilic? What team is Andre Agassi on again?

I say, Who cares? As even stickler-for-the-rules Roger Federer, who played Nole to a tie in Delhi, said:  “It’s crazy but fun.” Indeed, there is something fun about watching people who are used to looking out for numero uno rooting for their teams. It’s like a rolling all-star game.

And dig those team names – the UAE Royals (which Nole headlines); the Indian Aces (Feddy in for Rafael Nadal, who’s on the comeback from a wrist injury/back injury/appendix surgery, take your pick; the Manila Mavericks, with Andy Murray, newly engaged to longtime love, animal portraitist Kim Sears; and, my favorite, the Singapore Slammers. All we need is Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna and we could reenact “A League of Their Own.”

Tennis has had a league of its own since the World Team Tennis Professional League was founded in 1973. These leagues are win-wins for the fans since they get to see a galaxy of stars and there’s no letup in the tennis action.

Just one question remains: Do the matches serve peanuts and Cracker Jacks?