Serena Williams and her thunderous serve will return to the tennis world at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in less than a fortnight, when the third edition of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) takes place here from Dec 6-8.
The Straits Times understands that the American will headline the OUE Singapore Slammers, the home side, defending champions and one of four teams to compete in the tournament this year.
Williams, the world No. 2, has not competed since early September, after her straight-sets loss to Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semi-finals. She qualified for last month's season-ending WTA Finals here, but withdrew for the second year in a row, citing a right shoulder injury.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who also played for the Singapore Slammers in the IPTL's inaugural season in 2014, will team up with the likes of Nick Kyrgios and former world No. 1 Carlos Moya.
Top past and current players from both the professional men's and women's tennis tours, such as Tomas Berdych, Ana Ivanovic, Marat Safin and Martina Hingis, are also slated to make the trip to Singapore.
INTERNATIONAL PREMIER TENNIS LEAGUE 2016
WHAT: Mixed-team tournament featuring an abbreviated format of tennis.
WHO: Some 30 of tennis' biggest names will play in Singapore. World No. 2 Serena Williams will headline the OUE Singapore Slammers, joined by former world No. 1s Marat Safin, Carlos Moya, Ana Ivanovic, and other top players like Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios.
WHEN & WHERE: Begins on Dec 2 in Japan; Dec 6-8 in Singapore; final in India from Dec 9-11.
TICKETS: Season passes from $117, match-day tickets from $42 from Sports Hub Tix.
MORE INFO: www.iptlworld.com
IPTL founder and Indian doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi told ST yesterday: "We'll have 30 stars playing in Singapore. It's a good field and with Serena returning, hopefully fans will be excited."
The third edition of the IPTL, a mixed-team tournament using an abbreviated tennis format, will feature four teams playing in three cities, down from the five teams competing in five cities last year.
It will start in Saitama, Japan from Dec 2-4 and move to Singapore before the final takes place in Hyderabad, India from Dec 9-11, giving the United Arab Emirates and Philippine stops a miss this season. The UAE Royals will still be competing this year but the Philippine Mavericks are sitting out the season.
The event has faced unique challenges this year, admitted Bhupathi, contributing to its downsizing and late confirmation of details. He said: "The economic challenges this year have impacted the event and led to a lot of uncertainty. But we've come through the challenges. Next year, we'll bounce back, get back to five cities, maybe even more.
"It was important to (still) go ahead this year, because we want to build the event. If we take a year off, it'll be difficult to bounce back."
While ticket prices this year have been slashed by 40 to 50 per cent, organisers have less than two weeks in which to sell tickets. In previous seasons, when dates were announced months in advance, there was a longer period for sales.
Said Bhupathi: "We really took the fans into consideration and hope that they will support us and help us bounce back."
As an avid tennis fan who bought tickets to each of the three WTA Finals held in Singapore so far, as well as last year's IPTL, Keith Yong said Williams' presence will help boost sales.
Said the 32-year-old lawyer: "People do tend to turn up because of her. It was a bit disappointing when we found out that she wasn't going to be coming for the WTA Finals.
"There will be some people who have already planned their year-end holidays, but for those who will be in Singapore, I'm sure the fact that she is coming, plus the lower ticket prices, will be a mitigating factor."