Players, fans relish fresh perspective

Australia's Nick Kyrgios , (facing camera), who plays for the Singapore Slammers, conducting a clinic for juniors at the Marina Square rooftop court yesterday.
Australia's Nick Kyrgios , (facing camera), who plays for the Singapore Slammers, conducting a clinic for juniors at the Marina Square rooftop court yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Points often go faster than fans can react to them. The event's unique format has, on several occasions, confounded even the chair umpires. Ties often see more players on court than there are people in line at the concession stands.

There is no masking it - the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), accompanied by the tagline "Break the Code", is vastly different from the traditional game of tennis from which it is derived.

But while its abbreviated format and innovations may not necessarily be the purists' cup of tea, it has certainly earned the support of some of the game's biggest stars.

Lucrative earnings aside - according to some estimates, marquee players like Rafael Nadal pocket up to US$1 million (S$1.4 million) a night - players have lauded the IPTL for the takeaways it gives both player and fan.

For one thing, it has the ability to capture the attention of the young. It also offers fans who loyally follow the professional tours all season a chance to see something they might never see at a tournament.

World No. 2 Andy Murray, so often criticised for being surly on court, said fans get to see a lighter side to him - and other players - in the IPTL.

He told The Sunday Times this week: "None of the players smile when they're playing matches. But here it's different and this sort of event can attract different fans and different people into tennis.

"If I was a young kid, this is a lot cooler than some of the events that we play during the year."

Murray, who plays for the OUE Singapore Slammers this season and played the Dubai leg, noted that partnerships such as his with Maria Sharapova in mixed doubles last year are something fans will not see anywhere else on tour.

He said: "These are matches that you will never see the rest of the year. There's no chance... That for me is what's really, really nice about it.

"These sort of events I have no doubt are good for tennis to get a younger generation into it."

Roger Federer, meanwhile, came to Singapore motivated about competing in a place where he has never played before, and to help expose more cities to tennis. Of the five stops on this year's IPTL, two - Kobe and Manila - do not host any ATP or WTA tour-level events.

The team atmosphere is also something the Swiss has enjoyed - and not least because his team-mates on the Obi UAE Royals have helped keep the side in the running even when he loses.

Said the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who starred for the Royals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday: "If you're in a hole, they (help) you up. If you're winning, you celebrate together. There's a lot of cool aspects to the IPTL."

Australia's Nick Kyrgios, who is playing for the Slammers for the second straight season, said it has allowed him to bond with fellow professionals like never before.

He said: "The most special thing is the relationship you create with the team... It's something special and it's priceless.

"It's just a different perspective of the sport," he added. "The IPTL brings a new side of tennis. It's fast, it's exciting, the crowd's always sort of involved."

•Additional reporting by Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Players, fans relish fresh perspective'. Print Edition | Subscribe