Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – In case you haven’t noticed, the
ATP and WTA tours are in hibernation until January 4 (unless you count that
IPTL exo fast-forward tennis stuff goin’ down in Asia).
A plethora of current and former stars lined up for the inaugural season of
the exhibition-style International Premier Tennis League, which is directed by
Indian doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi, with a motto of “Break the Code.”
There are teams in Dubai, Manila, New Delhi and Singapore, featuring the
likes of current and/or former world No. 1 studs Novak Djokovic, Roger
Federer, Pete Sampras, Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova,
Caroline Wozniacki, Patrick Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya, and Ana
Ivanovic, not to mention one-time world No. 2 Andy Murray.
Each team has both past and present stars from the men’s and women’s tours.
Earlier in the week, Djokovic and Federer capped off the India leg of the
league with a highly-anticipated clash between the two superstars in front of
an electric crowd in New Delhi.
The one-set match between the two great rivals ended in a 6-6 tie under the
format rules, as Djokovic’s team, the UAE Royals, came away with a 29-22
victory over Federer’s team, the Indian Aces.
The tourney features five one-set matches between two teams, with the overall
score made up of the total number of games won by each side.
I’m not sure who’s following this “league” outside of the Dubai/Manila/New
Delhi/Singapore part of the world, but I know the players that are competing
decided that they’d rather make some more money instead of resting for the
start of the 2015 ATP and WTA campaigns.
What else has been going on in the world of racquets, you say?
The legendary Martina Navratilova became the latest former tennis great to
join the coaching ranks, as the 58-year-old Hall-of-Famer signed on to coach
2012 Wimbledon runner-up and current world No. 6 star Agnieszka Radwanska.
The former world No. 1 Navratilova, who piled up 18 Grand Slam singles
titles as a player, said it “should be a fun ride” (coaching Radwanska, that
Radwanska and Navratilova joined the recent trend of players hiring former
greats as coaches, such as Andy Murray employing Ivan Lendl and then Amelie
Mauresmo, Novak Djokovic bringing in Boris Becker, Roger Federer partnering
with Stefan Edberg, Marin Cilic working with Goran Ivanisevic, and Kei
Nishikori welcoming Michael Chang.
Rising American Madison Keys also dove into the former-world-No. 1-star-
turned-coach fray by announcing that Lindsay Davenport would work with her in
all events stateside, as well as all four Grand Slam events.
The 19-year-old Illinois native Keys is arguably the most-promising talent
among the Americans, male or female. She’ll head into ’15 ranked 30th in the
And bucking the trend is John Isner, who decided he wants to be coached by a
former world No. 63. Justin Gimelstob. Hmm.
Hey, who doesn’t like a good media rights deal story?
This week the WTA agreed to a ground-breaking media rights contract it says
will be worth more than $525 million (the largest in women’s sports history)
over 10 seasons from 2017 to 2026, with plans to produce all 2,000 or so
singles matches on the women’s tour each year.
The deal will keep the WTA’s international television rights with its current
broadcast distribution partner, PERFORM, but expand the scope of the
relationship. Their current agreement runs from 2013-16.
WTA chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster called the new deal “a game-changer” (of
course she did) and said it will “give fans more access to the players they
want to watch.”
Under the existing contract with PERFORM, Allaster said only about a third of
the singles matches at WTA tournaments were produced for broadcast around the
Now the tour and PERFORM are forming WTA Media, which will produce all main-
draw matches in singles, along with the semifinals and finals in doubles, at
every tour event, plus develop content for the web and magazine shows for TV.
On the domestic front, the aforementioned two-time Grand Slam champion Murray
recently proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Kim Sears, although he did
pop the question on the same day he fired his long-time friend and coach, Dani
Barring an unusual circumstance, Murray will become the third member of the
“Big Four” to get hitched, joining Djokovic and Federer, who are also already
fathers at this point.
Will Rafael Nadal join the mix any time soon?