International Professional Tennis League (ITPL) - blessing or curse?! - UBITENNIS
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International Professional Tennis League (ITPL) – blessing or curse?!

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2014 will see the birth of ITPL, the planned International Tennis Premier League which has been modelled on the lines of the Indian Premier League (PL) by former Indian Tennis Pro Mahesh Bhupathi, who began the sports agency Globosports. Here players will be playing matches which are scheduled to be held from November 28 to December 14. Four Asian cities—Mumbai, Singapore, Bangkok, and Dubai. Participants will field teams and play each other in a round-robin format at all four locations. Each match will consist of a five-set series with one set each of men’s, women’s, doubles, mixed doubles, and legends competition. So far, the team owners have spent US-Dollars 23,975,000 on getting the players in their side, also there is talk about a fifth city expected to participate, but only four have been named up to now. This vast amount of money was spent assembling a first class player field with reports suggesting that top names like Nadal may receive one million US Dollar per match! Marquee names are expected to be able to pick how much they want to play.

 

Mixed echo among players and media

Players who have been drafted in the inaugural International Premier Tennis League are Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Muray and Serena Williams. “I think it’s a fantastic concept if it happens, obviously,” commented Novak Djokovic as a first response to this new format. Other top players, like Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and prominent Asian pros Na Li and Kei Nishikori have not signed up. “Firstly, I want to see whether it takes off or not,” Federer told the Gulf News. “I know a lot of people have invested in it or are part of it. Anywhere where tennis grows is a good thing, so I hope it takes off and becomes very successful. In Asia, there is enormous potential, in places like China and India due to the amount of people that live there and the excitement they have for tennis.”

There have also been questions about whether the league will receive the financial backing required to sustain it, as well as its scheduling during the offseason, which many players already complain is not long enough. “I think it will be great for tennis if it can be pulled off,” Sharapova and Li’s agent, Max Eisenbud, told CNN. “I just don’t see how it could ever work, but I hope I am wrong.”  In a column for Le Parisien, Montpellier tournament director Patrice Dominguez described the IPTL as having “no sporting interest and no credibility,” and said it was “wasting the health of the players.”

The teams for the first issue of the International Professional Tennis League are as follows, with each allowed to name up to a total of 10 players over the next few weeks:

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

Dubai: Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Janko Tipsarevic, Malek Jaziri, Nenad Zimonic, Goran Ivanisevic, Martina Hingis


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

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

Initially, it was said the league will be played in five Asian cities and surprisingly India`s top singles star Somdev Devvarman is not part of any team so far. The 2014 season will feature 24 matches across the four host cities. The four teams will compete in a round-robin format in each of the four cities. The matches will be played in one city for three days, beginning in Singapore from November 28.
From there it will move to Bangkok (December 2,3,4), Mumbai (December 7,8,9) and Dubai (December 11, 12,13).

Former world number one Carlos Moya, who attended the draft, said, “I`m very excited to be part of this competition, and look forward to playing for Bangkok. I have fond memories from the days I`ve played there.” The owners can have up to 10 players on their roster and they will make their own additionals announcements in their relative cities over the next few weeks.

Already clouds on the horizon – Agassi’s participation still not clear

With the credibility of the nascent International Premier Tennis League still standing in some doubt, it was revealing to hear that Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras – two of the “icon” names drafted in the inaugural auction – remain unclear about who they are playing for. Or even, in Agassi’s case, whether they will be able to attend at all, as the American admitted that he had experienced a breakdown in communication with the league’s managers. He had offered to make himself available for a few days in December, only to hear that he had been drafted by Singapore, who play their home matches at the end of November. Or, in other words, during what Americans know as ‘Thanksgiving’ weekend, being THE family festivity of the year. “I learned that (…) to my very big surprise,” said Agassi. “I don’t have all the facts and if that’s 100 per cent accurate, we will be connecting with the organisers of the event to make sure nobody is left in the lurch.” (Simone Kemler)

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Petra Kvitova beats Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova to advance to the quarter final in Doha

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Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova knocked out Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 6-3 to advance to the quarter finals at the Qatar Total Open in Doha. Kvitova hit 31 winners to 19 unforced errors. 

 

Kvitova saved two break points to hold serve after two deuces. Kvitova broke twice in a row to win the fisrt set 6-1. The Czech saved three of the four break points she faced. 

Pavlyuchenkova took a 3-1 lead with a break in the fourth game of the second set, but Kvitova reeled off five games with three consecutive breaks to close out the second set 6-3. 

Number 8 seed Victoria Azarenka rallied from a slow start to beat German qualifier and Roland Garros quarter finalist Laura Siegemund 6-4 6-2. 

Siegemund broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Azarenka broke back in the fifth game of the first set to draw level to 3-3. Siegemund was unable to convert eight game points in a marathon seventh game featuring 12 deuces. Azarenka converted her fourth break point to take a 4-3 lead, but Siegemund broke back to draw level to 4-4. Azarenka broke again in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4. 

Azarenka raced out to a 5-0 lead with three breaks, but she was not able to serve out the win on her first attempt in the sixth game. Siegemund pulled one break back in the sixth game. Azarenka sealed the win on her fifth match point with a hold in the eighth game to secure her spot in the quarter finals. 

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit cruised past three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber 6-1 6-4 to advance to the third round. Kontaveit dropped her serve once in the entire match. 

Kontaveit went up a double break in the second and fourth games to cruise through to a 6-1 win in the opening set. The Estonian player raced out to a 4-1 lead with two consecutive breaks. Kerber pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4. Kontaveit held her next service games to claim the second set 6-4. Kontaveit has extended her win-loss record to 4-1 in her five head-to-head matches against Kerber. 

This year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Jessica Pegula beat 2016 Doha finalist Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 7-5. 

Pegula earned a double break in the third and seventh games to close out the first set 6-2. 

The second set started with three consecutive breaks. Pegula took a 2-1 lead with two breaks in the first and third games. Ostapenko broke back at love to draw level to 4-4 after winning 12 consecutive points from 2-4 down. 

Pegula won 12 of the last 14 points from 4-5 down to claim the second set 7-5 with a break in the 11th game.

Maria Sakkari eased past Madison Keys 6-2 6-2 with two breaks in each set. The Greek player earned an early break at love in the third game to take a 3-1 lead. Sakkari converted her fourth break point after eight games to win the first set 6-2. Sakkari saved a break point and broke twice in a row in the fifth and seventh games to win the second set 6-2.  

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Alexander Bublik pulls off the biggest win of his career as he upsets Alexander Zverev in Rotterdam

Alexander Bublik produced the biggest win of his career to reach the second round in Rotterdam.

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Alexander Bublik (@abnamrowtt - Twitter)

The Kazak world number 43 stunned the tennis world beating the number three seed and world number seven.

 

Alexander Bublik is through to the second round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam at the Ahoy after beating the world number seven and number three seed Alexander (Sascha) Zverev in straight sets 7-5 6-3. Bublik hit 21 winners in the match while Zverev finished the match with 20 unforced errors.

A good start for the German

Zverev hadn’t played a match since losing in the Australian Open quarterfinal vs Novak Djokovic a couple of weeks back so we didn’t know if rust was going to be an issue.

The German actually got off to a great start earning two break points in the opening game of the match and managed to get the early break and we though this was going to be the in form Zverev we are used to seeing.

At 4-3 the Kazak had a chance to go back on serve setting up two break points with a brilliant passing shot and breaking the very next point as the number three seed missed a volley at the net to even the set at 4-4.

With the world number seven serving to stay in the set the world number 43 went on the attack and managed to earn a set point with a stunning forehand winner.

He would break and take the first set 7-5 winning the next point with a great finish at the net with a overhead.

The Kazak pulls it off

After both players held their opening service games in the second set the German had a chance to take another lead and broke to take an early 2-1 lead as Bublik hit an untimed unforced error.

The Kazak would once again bounce back and this time break to go back on serve at 3-3 as the German was struggling making lots of unforced errors. The very next game he had five breakpoints to take the lead and it took him until the fifth break chance to get it done as he would break with a superb passing shot to take a 5-3 lead.

Bublik would serve out the match to take it in straights and send another seed packing. After the match Bublik gave his thoughts about the big win in an on court interview.

“Well I mean ya beating Sascha is great I guess, the match was up and down for both of us, I don’t think he played well today , I didn’t play well either, had some problems with the serve, I was a bit more consistent today, I was a bit more lucky in a few shots here and there, I believe I had more luck than he did today but I’m happy to get through”.

Bublik will face Tommy Paul in the next round with a chance to make the quarterfinals after making the final last week in Singapore and falling just short.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Ousts Gerasimov In Rotterdam Opener

The 22-year-old was made to work harder than he expected during his opening match.

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It was a tricky day at the office for Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas who ousted Belarus’ Egor Gerasimov in the first round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

 

The second seed required nearly two hours to score a 7-6(4), 7-5, win over the world No.76 who reached the semi-finals of the Open Sud de France last week. Tsitsipas was tested throughout the 116-minute clash but managed to prevail with the help of 31 winners against 29 unforced errors.

“I had to play more consistently and also what I increased in the [key] moments was the speed of my ball, which felt kind of floppy before. He had a solid game, he was serving well at times. He wasn’t missing a lot, so it was difficult,” atptour.com quoted Tsitsipas as saying afterwards. “I think once I put in my head that I needed to fight and I [couldn’t] take [any] single moment for granted, things changed and I felt the confidence.”

During what was a roller coaster opening set, the second seed let out bursts of frustration as he failed to tame his opponent on the court. Tsitsipas broke for a 3-2 lead and looked to be gaining momentum after leading 40-0 in the following game. Then a series of costly mistakes from the Greek enabled Gerasimov to claw his way back and level. Much to the bemusement of the world No.6 who smash his racket on the floor out of anger at one stage.

As both players continued to exchange in lengthy rallies, a tense tiebreaker eventually separated the two. Trading mini breaks, Tsitsipas secured the breakthrough he sought a couple points later with the help of a backhand error from his opponent to move him ahead 5-4. This time he was able to consolidate the lead to clinch the opener after hitting an unreturned serve down the centre of the court.

It was a case of deja vu in the second set for Tsitsipas who saw another break advantage come and go within two games during the early stages. Once again he struggled to pull away from his rival who produced some high quality tennis that exceeded his current ranking position. Nudging ahead to a game from victory at 6-5 Tsitsipas managed to snatch the match with the help of two consecutive errors from Gerasimov.

Despite playing in Rotterdam for the fifth year in a row, it is only the second time Tsitsipas has won a main draw match at the tournament. The first time was last year against Hubert Hurkacz who he will coincidentally play against in the next round of this year’s edition.

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