IPTL: Tennis Stars Nadal, Djokovic, Serena Sign Up For The Money, But Will There Be Any?
by Staff | March 2nd, 2014, 11:27 am

The mysterious IPTL (International Premier Tennis League) held their inaugural “draft” today behind closed walls in the money-rich mecca of Dubai. Among the draftees included a who’s who of pro tennis, both past and present: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter and Andre Agassi.

Overall, 28 players were selected by four teams (list below) for matches scheduled to be played between November 28th and December 20th starting this year.

Dubai: Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Martina Hingis, Goran Ivanisevic, Janko Tipsarevic, Malek Jazeri, Nenad Zimonjic

Mumbai: Rafael Nadal, Ana Ivanovic, Pete Sampras, Gael Monfils, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna, Fabrice Santoro

Bangkok: Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, Carlos Moya, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kirsten Flipkens, Daniel Nestor

Singapore: Tomas Berdych, Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Patrick Rafter, Daniela Hantuchova, Bruno Soares, Nick Kyrgios

The circuit originally slotted for six teams, then five and has now settled after quietly Kuala Lumpur backed out in recent days with four cities which will play a series of eight home and away matches with the top “marquee” stars like Nadal able to pick and chose which matches he’ll play.

Of the 70 or so players initially “committed” to the league but left undrafted were Agnieszka Radwanksa, John Isner, Stanislas Wawrinka, Sloane Stephens, Richard Gasquet, Jelena Jankovic and Jerzy Janowicz.

Curiously, stars like Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Li Na (the latter two represented by the same agent), chose not to participate.

“I don’t know that much about it, to be honest,” Federer said Thursday in Dubai. “I wish I could tell you like exactly what’s going on. I don’t even know when it starts and everything. I just didn’t sign up because, you know, I didn’t want to. I just first wanted to see it get off the ground. I wanted them to put in the work. They already signed up with a lot of other guys. I hope it’s going to be successful, because there is definitely potential, you know, in the Asian market, so many people live here, a lot of tennis enthusiasts come from this part of the world. So I hope it’s going to be very successful. Who knows what’s possible.”

As if by right, players have long criticized the tours for the season being too long, too exhausting, too harsh. Yet once again those same players have signed up to extend their season playing this Asian exhibition series.

But can you really blame them?

The format is simple. Similar to World TeamTennis, played during the summer in the U.S., each “match” will consist of one no-ad set of men’s singles, women’s singles, mixed doubles, men’s doubles and if tied 2-2 then legends.

“I think it’s a fantastic concept if it happens. I hope and I believe it will,” Djokovic said earlier this week. “Most of the players have been informed about it for, you know, a long period of time. We have been discussing about eventual participation in the event, and it’s a very positive thing for the sport.

“It’s going to promote tennis in the Asian part of the world. That is a huge market. It’s a fun concept. It lets the players enjoy in the court and off the court together.”

Each team, per reports, is budgeted for minimum of $4M in player salaries, a figure that could climb as high as $10M.

According to reports Nadal has been offered $1 million per match, just to play one, maybe two sets of tennis. Djokovic, Agassi, Serena and Sampras will also command similar high dollar appearance fee amounts for travelling to Asia during the holidays. So for players naturally it is a “fantastic concept”.

Djokovic’s new coach, Boris Becker, just so happens to be a league co-founder along with Mahesh Bhupahti. Said Becker last month, “This is something that tennis needs. Back in my time we would have loved to have a series of tournaments in Asia, where the demand for world class tennis as an entertainment concept merges with the needs and wishes of millions of fans.”

But there are more questions than answers early on with IPTL:

Where’s the money coming from to pay these high priced stars?

How many matches, for example, will Nadal and Sampras or Murray and Agassi, really play together, if any?

Where will the players play? What venue? On what surface?

Who owns these “teams”?

Won’t flying an IPTL “team” from Dubai to Singapore be expensive? Djokovic won’t be flying coach either!

What happens to the undrafted players, are they the reserves when the stars opt out?

Are there global TV deals in place, sponsors, infrastructure?

What if a match gets hit by bad weather?

What will happen to those other December exo series like South America or Abu Dhabi? Maybe Federer will return or Nadal/Djokovic can play both?

And bigger picture, what will the response be, if any, from the ATP/WTA and even the ITF who will hold their Davis Cup finale the weekend before the league’s start? The tours have shortened their calenders to appease the players, but players can now make as much money in the lucrative off-season than during the regular season – Nadal doesn’t make $1M per match at any ATP/ITF event! And that won’t help the sport in the long run.

Imagine if this takes off, players get their money, and next year it’s even bigger, longer. Then what’s the motivation to even play tour events which don’t offer the same in terms of prize money?

“You come to a tennis tournament and you don’t know who you’re going to see because it’s all up in the air and you don’t know when it starts and when it finishes,” said IPTL CEO Morgan Menahan last month.

“With this, you’re going to know who’s going to play on that day, what time the matches start, what time the matches finishes and what we’re going to build around that. Because there’s going to be some outreach programmes for kids.

“Who says that in 10 years time we’re not going to have the Americas, Europe, Asia, and they play against each other and then we have a Grand Final in Abu Dhabi or in Dubai for example.”

The reality is, for now, if you live in Mumbai don’t get your hopes up of seeing Rafa or Sampras play just yet. Even though co-founder Bhupahti calls that city home, there appears to be a lot of work that still needs to be done to get this actually off the ground. As Djokovic reminded, “if it happens”.

In the end the players will ask one simple question: Show me the money! Because the IPTL is going to need a lot of it to work, and right now there doesn’t seem to be any. There’s not even a website!

You Might Like:
The WTA Now Supports The IPTL, The ATP Still Does Not
No IPTL Money = No Roger Federer, No Serena Williams And Lots Of Irate Fans
Novak Djokovic Will Not Play The Cash Grab December Exos In The IPTL And Abu Dhabi
Roger Federer Replaces Rafael Nadal In IPTL, He’ll Play In New Delhi!
Roger Federer, Serena Williams Among The Few Top Names Chasing Money At The IPTL

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

27 Comments for IPTL: Tennis Stars Nadal, Djokovic, Serena Sign Up For The Money, But Will There Be Any?

A Tango Lad Says:

Go where the money is. Supply and demand I say,

Why not?

If necessary, Nadal and Djokovic can rest another part of the year and take a few zero pointers where they aren’t being paid $1M per set.

Might make the ITF/ATP owners wake up and pony up more cash for the players. Or at least approve Larry Ellison’s attempt to up the prize money.

The owners of the slams and the masters 1000s have made fortunes off the backs of the players for too long.

Giles Says:

@ATL. I thought the ATP did in fact approve Larry’s generous gesture?

Hippy Chic Says:

I look forward to this and really hope it happens,as i used to love watching Pat and Andre and was gutted when both reired,looks like a great field,bring it on i say,cannot wait.

rafaeli Says:

Good for them. The ATP and the ITF don’t have a pension scheme so the players have to make their own arrangements for what is a very short career. Some retired players find it difficult to make ends meet and that includes Borg who was one of the most successful in his time.

Their commitment to the tour should leave them enough time to earn money if they want to. No employer should have the right to employ their staff 24/7 for most of the year. They are not even guaranteed a pay cheque at the end of a tournament. Only the winner and the runner up get a decent pay cheque.

A Tango Lad Says:

Giles, yes after months of delay and capitulation after negative reaction by players and media plus some threats from Ellison himself.

Should have been immediately approved.

Brando Says:

It’s a money maker: that’s why they are there.

Fed likely will join next year and so will a lot of others I imagine.

I cannot blame them but at the same time it just shows yet again that Sport is fast losing it’s traditional integrity in the face of big money.

Colin Says:

If you Google “IPL” you will find that such a thing already exists: cricket’s Indian Premier League.

In the cricketing world there has long been worry about star players neglecting their original domestic and international careers, lured by the big money available in India.

Where there is big money, there is all too often corruption. In the sub-continent organised crime is heavily involved, with crooked bookies coercing players to fix matches, threatening them and their families with dire fates if they refuse.

I suppose in an individual sport like tennis, it would be harder to lean on big name players, but still I’d be dubious about the integrity of the project.

By the way, Brando, if you go right back to the beginnings of modern sport, you’ll find there never was a golden age of integrity. For example, there is a story running now, suggesting that the Ali/Liston fight when Ali won the world title, may well have been fixed by the Mafia. Over a century ago, the great W.G. Grace ignored the rules of cricket when it suited him.

pigoonse Says:

Sounds cheesy.

skeezer Says:

^yep. And I’ll believe it when I see it. WTT had a lot of potential too but has always kinda been in the background of Tennis( it is/was actually a fun fan event to be at ). If it wasn’t for BJK it would have not survived.

And there is a HUGE disparity with the long complaint (with a FEW players) that say the season is too long, and they then turn around and all of the sudden want to ADD this to the Tennis schedule for the year.

Reality can be a nasty bite. The apparently long tennis season appears not to be that bad now?


Cha ching baby.

A Tango Lad Says:

Traditional integrity?

More like the tournament owners keeping a disproportionate share of the revenue on the backs of the players.

Perhaps this will force owners to compete for the players participation in the years ahead if and when this event matures.

Nothing wrong with change and evolution. Tennis management is far behind other professional sports.

A good thing indeed.

nadalista Says:

As Rafa says, the best players will be playing:


Vamos IPTL!!

the DA Says:

“And there is a HUGE disparity with the long complaint (with a FEW players) that say the season is too long”

That argument doesn’t hold up here. We’e talking about a few no-ad sets of tennis, not even consecutively played. This looks like it could require less effort than a traditional best of 3 exo. I personally hope it will succeed if not only for some of the mixed doubles combinations: Andy/Vika vs Rafa/Ana or Tomas/Serena. Fun.

Poor Radwanksa, Ferrer and Wawa weren’t even drafted. I suppose there is still time.

Humble Rafa Says:

I am playing for Mumbai: not sure what country it’s in. I have asked Uncle Toni to find out.

Slice Tennis Says:

the DA,
Preach it.

Giles Says:


skeezer Says:


I don’t think this format will hurt them either. My point is what a FEW have the players had to say a year or 2 back complaining the Tennis season is too long. Now added Exhos and this? Can’t make a stance one way and then add more on the schedule. Whats up with that? BTW… Personally, I don’t think the season is too long.

Translated Age Says:

Guaranteed money with no ATP points IS an exho last time I checked.

Hit and giggle, nothing more.

Paid vacation in the shoulder season.

More money than they would earn in a two-week 7-match best-of-five major.

Be stupid not to.

Ben Pronin Says:

Anyone see the MSG exo last night? Murray and Djokovic had a good time but that was maybe the most physical exhibition I’ve ever seen.

dari Says:

I did see that, Ben. Pretty good as far as exhos go, fun spirit, but some really tough points and Murray working out that back for sure.
BTW, ATP draw challenge? Doesn’t exhist this year apparently, anyone know why?
WTA has one now though

Ben Pronin Says:

That’s disappointing, I was looking forward to it this year.

I watched most of the second set. At times it looked like Murray was playing exo tennis while Djokovic was trying to win the point. Made Djokovic look silly but maybe it’s just me.

That one kid of rallied with Djokovic was pretty good. I wonder if we’ll see him in the future. That’d be a cool story.

And Bartoli hit with Murray! That was interesting for sure. I missed the doubles match though but from what I read it was quite the drubbing.

the DA Says:

I watched it. It was good fun. The little kid was great. Nole joked around, rubbing Andy’s thigh and doing push-ups after missing a shot. They both took selfies in the middle of the match and tweeted them. At times it looked like they both wanted a bit of serious practice. Marion’s surprise visit was fun – of course Andy served a 132mph bomb at her. All in all a good spirited exo which the crowd enjoyed.

Surprised this hasn’t covered. There were 2 write-ups last year about last year’s exo.

the DA Says:


Ben Pronin Says:

Last year, Del Potro beat Nadal at MSG and then Nadal went on to beat Delpo in the Indian Wells final.

I’m sure you’re hoping this is a trend, DA ;)

Frankie Says:

Good for them. The ATP and the ITF don’t have a pension scheme so the players have to make their own arrangements for what is a very short career. Some retired players find it difficult to make ends meet and that includes Borg who was one of the most successful in his time.

But the thing is ONLY THE TOP PLAYERS and some oldies are playing and they already have lots of money. What is the benefit of this league to the others that are stuck in the Challengers.

Okiegal Says:

@ Ben

I agree with you in thinking it looked like Andy
wasn’t taking it as serious as Novak. There were times Andy could have easily won the point, but didn’t even try. I wondered if his back was bothering him somewhat. He acted like to me that he was ready for it to be over. Thought he looked spent….just my take.

the DA Says:

@Ben Pronin – “I’m sure you’re hoping this is a trend”

I’ll take that ;) I just want him to get some insurance for those 1000 Miami points.

Top story: Djokovic Returns to ATP Play This Week In Tel Aviv; Sinner In Sofia, Ruud In Seoul