Tennis: Bhupathi sees HK as 'priority' city for new league

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong will likely host one of the teams in an elite new tennis league featuring many of the world's top players, the man behind the competition has said, according to a report.

The International Premier Tennis League, inspired by the television-friendly format of cricket's Indian Premier League in India, will see teams of six to 10 players compete for six franchises dotted across Asia.

It is the brainchild of India's 12-time Grand Slam doubles champion Mahesh Bhupathi, and has been branded by men's world No.1 Novak Djokovic as potentially "revolutionary".

"Hong Kong is a priority for us. We want to base a franchise in this city which has a tennis culture and which used to be an ATP Tour destination," he told the South China Morning Post.

"We are talking to people in Hong Kong and I'm confident we can have a team based there."

Tennis authorities are keen to push the popularity of the sport in Asia, but are yet to see the expected knock-on effect after China's Li Na became the first Asian women's singles champions with her momentous French Open title win in 2011.

Other cities under consideration for the new league include Tokyo, Singapore, Jakarta, Manila, Kolkata and Bangalore.

Bhupathi said Hong Kong's "tennis culture" made it an ideal franchise city for the league, in which fixtures will consist of five one-set matches, with no advantage scoring, over a three-hour period.

The franchises will bid for players at an auction set for just prior to the Australian Open in January, with the league to take place over about three weeks in November and December next year. The maximum budget per franchise will be US$10 million (S$12.4 million).

Stars such as Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are among those to have voiced support for the new league. But it will also feature stars of the past, such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Pat Rafter.