SINGAPORE (Reuters) - It’s tennis, but not as we know it.
Singapore welcomed the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) for the first time on Tuesday and while the initial turnout at the Indoor Stadium was low, players and organizers were doing their best to create a party atmosphere.
The four-team tournament kicked off in Manila on Friday and will proceed to Delhi next before concluding in Dubai on Dec. 13, the event mirroring its India-based cricket counterpart by adding bright lights, glitz, glamour and audience participation to a fast-paced format.
Early signs coming out of the Philippines suggest the tournament got off to a positive start and once the audience get to fully understand the complex scoring and in-game nuances, the IPTL could establish itself as an interesting addition to the regular tennis calendar.
The emphasis of the event is on speed, fun and noise with ties made up of five one-set shootouts in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and mixed doubles and a legends singles match with the team that wins the most games, not sets, declared the winner.
Additional touches include a 20-second serve clock, a ‘Happiness Power Point’ joker that scores double and can be played once per set, no advantages, no lets, coaching timeouts and a five-minute shootout if a match is tied at 5-5.
The matches, played under bright lights, are punctuated by loud music at key moments with the audience asked to participate by tweeting ‘selfies’ that get flashed up on the scoreboard and questions asked to winning players in post-match interviews.
The tournament has the fortunate to get big names like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic to take part, and while some struggled to adapt to the mixed-team format most warmed to the event in Manila.
The Delhi-based Indian Aces have dominated so far, winning all three matches in Manila and opening with a resounding 30-11 win over the UAE Royals in Singapore.
A bigger crowd is expected in Tuesday’s late match between Williams’ Singapore Slammers and the Manila Mavericks in an event confident that its modern approach will afford it a big future in tennis.
However, one player looking in the past was Serbia’s Ivanovic, who answered a tweeted question asking what decade she would have liked to live in by saying “the 14th century, to develop the world”.
Her first task would have been to invent the tennis racket as they did not arrive until 200 years later.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly