Tennis stars set to shine in CTL

Tennis stars set to shine in CTL

India, struggling to carve out their sporting identity on the global stage, seem to have found an answer in the preponderant private league.

The formula of pumping in cash with a dash of glamour began with the Indian Premier League seven years ago, and today it is being used to fuel the dreams of all other sports in the country — be it hockey, badminton, football or kabaddi.

Climbing the bandwagon now is tennis with the inception of Champions Tennis League (CTL) which kicks off on Monday.

In fact, tennis the last of all the major sports in India to follow the league-based structure, seems to have made up for the delay by floating two leagues!

Immediately after the CTL, founded by former Davis Cupper Vijay Amritraj and backed by All India Tennis Association (AITA),  finishes its inaugural run, Mahesh Bhupathi will enter with his ambitious International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) with a battery of top international stars including Roger Federer and  Noval Djokovic.

Comparisons are inevitable but Amritraj has been stoic from the start in emphasising CTL to be an “India-centric endeavour” despite the league boasting of its own range of top 25 international players including Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Feliciano Lopez.

“There is only one tennis league in India and that is CTL. It is raining sports leagues in the country with several sports having a league of its own. So we decided it was time to have a tennis league which will help in unearthing fresh talent,” Amritraj had said.

The league is a mix of current players, former Grand Slam winners and India players, including the juniors.

The likes of former stars like 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, former World No 1s Juan Carlos Ferrero and Martina Hingis add to the star power.

The tournament faced an early setback with the withdrawal of World No 10 David Ferrer, picked by the Punjab team, because of a back injury. He was replaced by Indian doubles star Leander Paes.

Like all the other sports leagues in India, CTL, too, promises to transform the landscape of tennis in the country.

“The Champions Tennis League will give our Davis Cuppers a chance to play alongside top stars. Most importantly two juniors from each team will travel with the squad.  Just hitting with them can give them a whole new dimension, like how they think and train,” said Amritraj.

The opening tie takes place between Delhi Dreams and Punjab Marshalls in Delhi and Hyderabad Aces and Bangalore Raptors in Hyderabad.

The winning team will pocket Rs 10 million while the runners-up get half that amount.

The CTL, undoubtedly, offers one the thrill of witnessing the top tennis stars in action, something unthinkable a few years ago.

But whether it impacts the progress of Indian tennis on the international circuit needs to be seen.

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