Tennis: Struggling International Premier Tennis League hopes to make return in scaled-down form

Less than 1,000 spectators turned up for the IPTL opening day in December 2016 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Less than 1,000 spectators turned up for the IPTL opening day in December 2016 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Financial struggles dogged the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) last year and it will not be staged this year, but the tournament's founder Mahesh Bhupathi is still hoping to revive it in a scaled-down form in the future.

New York Times journalist Christopher Clarey tweeted on Friday (Dec 1) that Bhupathi is looking at centering all the tournament's action in a single country. The IPTL, which began in 2014, had previously been played out over five or three legs, each in a different country.

"Tough ask. We'll see," tweeted Clarey.

The IPTL, which features a shortened scoring system, shot clock, cheerleaders, DJs and franchise-based teams, had been billed as a refreshing update to the traditional tennis format.

But it was forced to reduce its number of legs of five to three last year due to money problems, which also compelled the tournament to drop superstars Roger Federer and Serena Williams.

Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, was originally part of the Singapore Slammers franchise and had been pencilled in for the Singapore leg last December, only for IPTL organisers to announce her withdrawal a day before the event.

"We were trying to get it done and we've had some challenges financially," Bhupathi told The Straits Times then.

"Serena has been supportive and she really wanted to come and play some matches before (the season starts in) Australia, but we couldn't get all the ducks lined up."

In her absence, less than 1,000 fans turned up for the first day of action on Dec 6, 2016, in the 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium.