The International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) formally announced the Manila leg of its 2015 season in a press conference held May 21, at the Coral Way Lobby of the SM Mall of Asia Arena, which will also serves as the venue of the event.
In attendance for this big launch are IPTL’s Vice President for Operations Abhishek Ponia along with Philippine Mavericks owners Kevin Belmonte, Haresh Hiranand, Jean-Henri Lhuillier, and SM Lifestyle Entertainment’s Edgar Tejerero. Joining them are representatives from official sponsors: PLDT Vice President and HOME Marketing Head Gary Dujali for PLDT Home Fibr and Christopher Quimpo, senior manager and sports marketing head of Smart Sports.
From a simple, but ambitious idea
The idea for IPTL was conceived by Indian tennis legend Mahesh Bhupathi and in May 25, 2013 formally announced its genesis. At the press conference, Ponia shared that they envisioned bringing a different kind of tennis with the IPTL. “The format of tennis had been like this for 100 years,” he emphasized. The ITPL VP for Operations also said that they wanted to bring a team-centered competition with some of the sport’s big stars to the Asian markets. “Asia is deprived for Grand Slam tournaments, and [with IPTL] we are bringing these great players.”
Last year went off to a great start for the tournament. Ponia also expressed his gratitude to the Filipinos who came to support the tournament. “Thank you to the Philippines for the support,” he said. It came close to an accumulated 30,000 fans who flocked to the Mall of Asia Arena, November of last year, for the previous season’s three-day Manila leg.
After four legs of intense competition, the Micromax Indian Aces won the inaugural season winning eight ties against four losses. UAE Royals took second place, while Manila Mavericks and Singapore Slammers completed the order of finish.
In an audio-video presentation, tennis greats former World No. 1’s Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova and current top men’s and women’s players, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are all in agreement that IPTL brought a different kind of experience, singling out the playing-as-a-team format. Williams even said that IPTL is one of the most exciting experiences of her career. These current top players are all excited to be back this season.
For the 2015 season, Manila Mavericks changed their name to Philippine Mavericks. Lhuillier revealed that the change in name is to widen the scope of the team. “Other teams are named after the countries, so we did the same.” Aside from the Mavericks, defending champions Indian Aces, UAE Royals, and Singapore Slammers will return this year. They will be joined by the new team of Japan Warriors, bannered by current World No. 5 and hometown hero Kei Nishikori, and former Maverick and World No. 2 Sharapova.
Ponia said that the game play will keep to their same setup that includes the service clock, the power point, timeouts, and shoot-out. The IPTL representative, however, said that there will be some new features on the game including a noise meter. “The noise meter will measure which crowd is the loudest,” he explained.
The home side will be bannered by, in Lhullier’s words, the three “pillars” of the team namely our very own Treat Huey, Australian legend Mark Philippoussis, and crowd favorite Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The biggest addition to the squad is World No. 1 and former Slammer Serena Williams. Another Frenchman Richard Gasquet, Slovak-Australian Jarmila Gajdosova, Croatian up-and-coming star Borna Coric, and German Sabine Lisicki round up the roster.
“We have a stronger team this year,” Lhuillier declared. He noted the ability of the players of the Philippine Mavericks to excel in both doubles and singles as his main reason to believe so, specifically citing Williams and Tsonga.
Going into the big event
When asked about who will be competing in the Manila leg on December 6–8, Ponia admitted that it will be difficult to have all the big names to compete in each leg. “But we try to have two [top players] in each leg and one big match,” he promised. However, the IPTL honcho confirmed that another former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and current World No. 4 player Tomas Berdych will be playing here in Manila.
Tejerero shared that the team management decided to retain the ticket prices from last year to this upcoming season. The three-day passes are still priced at PHP 58,000 for VIP seats, PHP 48,000 for Patron, PHP 26,000 for Lower Box, PHP 14,000 for Upper Box, and PHP 3,000 for General Admission. The SM Lifestyle Entertainment head emphasized that these passes are transferrable. Tickets will start selling at July 15 on SM Tickets outlets and online.