The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which has turned to Asia to grow its sport, is unclear how the International Tennis Premier League (ITPL) will pan out.
“We are still learning about it, just as the world and the media is,” said Melissa Pines, Vice-President, Asia-Pacific, on the sidelines of its new announcement to bring the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA championships to south-east Asia for the first time this year.
The Mahesh Bhupathi-promoted ITPL, following its recent draft in Dubai, announced that among the women players who have signed up are Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Daniela Hantuchova, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.
Striking a balance
Continuing on the ITPL, Pines said, “We feel exhibitions can be good but the athletes need to strike a balance between professional and financial needs. They need to look to recovery and preparation for the coming season.”
She said the WTA was still learning about the event through media reports and did not have a clear picture.
Pines also said she and the WTA were looking forward to India becoming ‘priority market’ in the near-future.
“We are always looking at inquiries to host new events and certainly India is a key market to spread women’s tennis.”
Women’s tennis in Asia is at a very interesting stage with Li Na as the World No. 2 and Peng Shuai as No.1 in women’s doubles. Also Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei is World No. 2 in women’s doubles and India’s Sania Mirza, who was as high as No. 7 in 2012, is now No. 11.
Australian Open champion Li Na has decided to skip the inaugural ITPL, presumably because of a packed calendar. Li Na is being used by the WTA to push its sport in Asia.
The Asia-Pacific region has around 17 WTA events, and these include many new events in China and the season-ending event in Singapore. There is also talk of a new top-level event in Li Na’s home city of Wuhan.
The ITPL is due to take place between November 27 and December 14 and will have four host cities — Bangkok, Mumbai, Singapore & Dubai.