Dubai: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, as well as former stars Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, lead the names saying they are prepared to take part in the planned International Tennis Premier League (ITPL).
However, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova are the most notable absentees from the list of players released on Friday to participate in a ‘draft’ of 70 male and female players in Dubai on Sunday.
The players, put into different categories according to their status and market values, will go up for auction, with the five venues — expected to be Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur — competing against each other to bring the players to their city.
Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray are listed as ‘Icon Players’ along with Stanislas Wawrinka, Agassi and Sampras, as well as women’s world number one Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki.
There is also a ‘Past Champions’ category, featuring eight former tour stars, including Pat Rafter, the former US Open champion.
In addition, there are four more categories of current tour players, while a handful of doubles players will also feature in the draft for the tournament, which is likely to be staged in the traditional off-season between late November and late December.
Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam champion, Sharapova and Australian Open champion Li Na, the women’s world number two, have all declined invitations.
The tournament, which is the brainchild of Mahesh Bhupathi, the 12-time doubles Grand Slam champion from India, could have implications for the established men’s and women’s circuits, the ATP Tour and the WTA Tour, which have dominated the sport since the 1970s.
Players who have often complained about the demands of the long seasons on the tour seem set to lay themselves open to charges of hypocrisy by taking part in the planned event.
“I think it’s a fantastic concept if it happens, obviously,” said Djokovic on Thursday. “I hope and I believe it will.
“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 themselves on court and off court together.
“It’s something that we don’t get to see that much, the team concept. It’s not that easy to realise, because it’s a huge programme and project. Hopefully, I’m going to try to be part of it.”
Federer, though, sounded more cautious.
“Firstly, I want to see whether it takes off or not. 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.”
The likelihood is of eight matches between five teams, on a home-and-away basis, each match of one set, in men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles, and legends’ singles.
Each set will be shorter with a one-point decider at deuce and a tiebreaker at 5-5. It should all last about three hours, tailored for television.