Roger Federer, Serena Williams star attractions at 2016 IPTL.

The third edition of the Indian Premier Tennis League (IPTL) will kick start in Saitama, Japan on December 2nd with the UAE Royals taking on the defending champs OUE Singapore Slammers in the opening match, followed by hosts Japan Warriors facing the Indian Aces

SHERINE PAUL

Tennis fans in Asia finally breathed a sigh of relief after it was announced that the third edition of the Indian Premier Tennis League (IPTL) would go ahead as scheduled from December 2-11 but with a few changes. The 2016 IPTL in comparison to previous years will be missing a fair chunk of top ranking players but they have still managed to bag the biggest crowd pullers from the ATP and WTA tours – Roger Federer and Serena Williams. This year four teams defending champions Singapore Slammers, inaugural champions Indian Aces, Japan Warriors and the UAE Royals defending champions Singapore Slammers, inaugural champions Indian Aces, Japan Warriors and the UAE Royals will play across three venues in Japan, Singapore and a brand new host city for India in Hyderabad.

Here’s a quick look at how the teams shape up this season
INDIAN ACES
Having Roger Federer in any side is a boon and Indian Aces have had the fortune of having the tennis legend in the side not once but twice. Even in his absence Indian Aces have had one of the best-rounded teams since season 1 and they will have the new additions of Feliciano Lopez and Eugenie Bouchard this season. Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna have been the backbone of the team since season one and are extremely dependable in the mixed doubles. Mark Philippoussis is another key component of the team as one of the top legends in the league and his booming aces gain plenty of free points. Indian Aces have qualified for the final in both IPTL’s and will hope to emulate their 2014 win.
Team: Eugenie Bouchard, Feliciano Lopez, Ivan Dodig, Mark Philippoussis, Roger Federer, Rohan Bopanna, Sania Mirza, Thomas Enqvist
Win-loss record: 16–7

JAPAN WARRIORS
World No 5 Kei Nishikori will hope to lead his home team to their first IPTL title along with country woman Kurumi Nara. They will also hope to improve on their disappointing performance last season where they managed only two wins in the league. Team Japan will have the added advantage of starting the first leg at home in front of the home crowd and will also rely on Marat Safin to gain them crucial points in their legends matches. Jelena Jankovic will be a great addition to the side as she can contribute in the women’s singles as well as mixed doubles.
Team: Fernando Gonzalez, Jean-Julien Rojer, Jelena Jankovic, Kei Nishikori, Kurumi Nara, Marat Safin, Fernando Verdasco
Win-loss record: 2-9

OUE SINGAPORE SLAMMERS
Singapore Slammers come into the tournament as the defending champions but this time they will be missing the services of Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka who were vital members of the team last season. Serena Williams will be leading their title defence along with the ever entertaining Nick Nick Kyrgios and Marcos Baghdatis. Women’s singles could be an area of weakness for the side when Serena is not playing as Kiki Bertens is the second player in the team. Carlos Moya has worked with the team before and his form will prove to be decisive in the team’s fortunes.
Team: Marcelo Melo, Marcos Baghdatis, Nick Kyrgios, Rainer Schuttler, Serena Williams, Carlos Moya, Kiki Bertens
Win-loss record: 10-13

UAE ROYALS
The UAE Royals have had Goran Ivanisevic as a constant in the side and have made one IPTL final but lost out to the Indian aces. With the strongest women’s team in the competition, this season they will have the added advantage of having Martina Hingis and Ana Ivanovic in their side. Doubles specialist Daniel Nestor is also part of the time while Tomas Berdych will shoulder the challenge of leading the team in the men’s singles. An extremely consistent team, they could be one to watch as well this season.
Team: Goran Ivanisevic, Martina Hingis, Pablo Cuevas, Thomas Johannson, Tomas Berdych, Daniel Nestor, Ana Ivanovic
Win-loss record: 12-11

RULES RECAP

  •        The league follows a round robin format
  •        Five matches are played by each team – Men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and legend’s singles
  •        The first to six games win the set and if the scores are tied at 5-5 it progresses to a 13-point tie-breaker
  •        The team that accumulates the maximum number of points win the tie
  •        Players have to serve within 20 seconds or they concede a point to their opponents
  •        Let and ad-scoring are not part of the IPTL
  •        A team can opt for a Power point while receiving serve to indicate that the next points counts as double