The tennis off-season will grow ever shorter in December 2014, when the International Premier Tennis League is set to begin operations with headliners including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and China’s Li Na, all on board for a quick-hit holiday payday.
The concept of a competition lasting for several weeks before Christmas will comprise an unspecified number of teams in unnamed Asia cities, according to league officials who presented their project on the eve of the French Open.
Notable absentees include Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, who have already announced plans for various exhibitions in South America during the off-season.
The new Asian league has the backing of Nadal’s management, with the Spaniard quick to sign on. “It will be a big success for sure. I really look forward to be playing for a team and especially in Asia, such an important place in the world of tennis,” Nadal said.
Organisers said the programme will be structured around five one-set matches using no-add scoring. The ultra-light workload on court will comprise men and women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and men’s legends singles.
Much like the American NFL, players will be drafted by teams in an auction to be held in Melbourne next January, with prices expected to reach into the millions for the big names.
“It’s a great idea. As tennis is an individual sport, it will be really exciting to see some of the best tennis players in the world as part of a team,” said Murray.
Among the legends expected to participate are Pete Sampras and Spain’s Carlos Moya.