SYDNEY - Tennis Australia is investigating buying an Asian-based franchise in the planned lucrative International Premier Tennis League team tournament, a report said Friday.
The IPTL, the brainchild of veteran Indian tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi, is inspired by the television-friendly format of cricket's IPL in India and will have teams of six to 10 players compete for six franchises dotted across Asia. Like the IPL, international players would be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to represent city-based franchises, with the potential to disrupt the existing tennis calendar. The Australian Financial Review said Tennis Australia was considering buying a franchise, which could be based in Hong Kong, with Sydney also under consideration.
"Anything that promotes tennis in our region we would certainly look at," Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley told the newspaper. The Financial Review said Tennis Australia was pursuing new revenue sources in Asia, including the possibility of hosting tournaments or events there. The organisation has heavily promoted the Australian Open Grand Slam to Asian tennis fans, sponsors and broadcasters. "We think the more interest in tennis in the region the better it is for tennis in Australia," Tiley said.
The Asian franchises will bid for players at an auction set for just prior to the Australian Open in January, with the league to take place over about three weeks in November and December 2014. The maximum budget per franchise will be US$10 million. Stars such as Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are among those to have voiced support for the new league. But it will also feature names from the past, such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Pat Rafter.