Sunday, 5 October 2014

International Premier Tennis League

I'd totally forgotten about the brand new event that is soon to take place in the tennis world - the International Premier Tennis League. Loosely based on cricket's Indian Premier League with its Indian-based franchises, the IPTL begins its first ever season during the tennis off-season in December. A couple of weeks ago, Roger Federer changed his mind about competing in the IPTL and as you would expect, this has made everyone sit up and take notice. All of a sudden, the IPTL is looking a lot sexier. Although for this inaugural tournament, it might have more of an exhibition feel than any serious event such as cricket's IPL. Hard to say at this stage but I think it will be more competitive than many fans think. If you were part of an 8 player team, playing in front of real home support, with the eyes of the sporting world on you for 4 weeks, being paid the huge sums that you are, wouldn't you want to win? Certainly, you would not want to embarrass yourself or let your team members or the sport down and this is a great chance to showcase tennis to an emerging market.

The fact that it is being played during the traditional tennis down-time (a period which has recently been extended due to the demands of players) means it will be unlikely to ever reach the same prestige as a normal tour event. In fact, you would be well within your rights to ask why on earth players who were complaining about the season being too long and tiring, are doing extending that season by an extra 4 weeks! As always, money is the answer - there's some serious dollars on offer for those who are competing. As some of these top players end up playing exhibition matches in December anyway, asking them to play a few extra sets probably won't make much difference. The format is set up so that no player will play more than one set of tennis a day (although the men's singles players might have to play a deciding set), so it shouldn't be too taxing, although they will be playing most days for a 4 week period.

The 4 franchises are all based in Asia and this is primarily because the ATP and WTA see this continent as the burgeoning one for tennis. With China just beginning to really jump onto the tennis bandwagon (3 new WTA tournaments started this year alone in China and Hong Kong), the WTA Tour Championships being hosted in Singapore for the first of 4 years and a huge untapped market in India in-particular, Asia is going to be the next big market to explode into life.  Because of this, I can definitely see the IPTL growing into something far more serious, though I doubt this short-form version of tennis will change to the full version - not during the off-season anyway. If it does take off though, who knows what will happen and where it might be shifted to in the schedules. Tennis is a business at the end of the day and just like cricket's IPL, if the demand is there, that's where the players, TV companies and sponsors will gravitate to.

 Eugenie Bouchard - first draft for IPTL (obviously)

It's certainly a hugely exciting prospect and the biggest innovation in the sport for a long, long time. Purists will no doubt hate it (just as they do with 20/20 cricket) but I think it promises to be a lot of fun. When you watch as much tennis as I do, anything fresh is welcomed with open arms. I'm pretty sure Betfair will produce markets for this, with a total of 24 "matches" over 4 weeks, there's plenty of action to trade. We could well be at a stage where there is almost a full year of tennis to trade - making tennis surely THE sport for any trader to get into. It will be fascinating to see how the markets react to this new form of tennis. As it's a one set shoot-out, including innovations such as  "power-play" points (where the next point counts double), a shot clock between points (pity Nadal has withdrawn because that would have been very interesting!) and tie-break deciders at 5-5, there will be some big swings in price in most matches.

Also, the "outright" markets will be intriguing. It is a team event with 5 sets played in total for each "match" (one each for men's singles, women's singles, doubles, mixed doubles and retired/legends singles), so the outright match market as well as league markets should throw up a lot of betting potential. So from a trader's perspective, this is excellent news. Well, it would be for some traders but not for me - I'll be taking a well earned holiday during December! But definitely keeping a close eye on proceedings, as the whole tennis world will be. This could be the start of something very special indeed...........

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