Kolkata: In an unprecedented gathering of tennis stars, management at the IPTL on Tuesday announced an exhibition tour across three major cities in India. The promo tour, designed in anticipation of Season 2 of the IPTL, has IPTL founder and Indian tennis legend Mahesh Bhupathi teaming up with his former mixed doubles partner and current doubles World no.1 Sania Mirza in a rare engagement against Leander Paes who partners with the most successful women's tennis player of all time, Martina Navratilova. The experienced quartet will travel to Kolkata, Hyderabad and New Delhi on the 25th, 26th and 27th of November for three exhibition matches.
This tour aims to achieve one main goal - to regain interest and excitement about the sport of tennis in the hearts of the Indian sporting public. It becomes a double shot of tennis with the IPTL coming to India 2 weeks post the exhibition tour.
This exhibition tour along with the IPTL gives hard core fans a brilliant opportunity to experience delectable clashes up close and personal. Tennis fans, young and old, will get a chance to experience the Paes-Martina charm on the court. Also in store for fans will be the reuniting of Sania Mirza with her most successful doubles partner in Mahesh Bhupathi. Both doubles pairings have won two Mixed Grand Slams each with Leander-Martina winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon (both in 2003) while Sania-Mahesh have won the Australian Open (2009) and the French Open (2012).
While this event will mainly concentrate on attracting fans for some high quality tennis, Mahesh Bhupathi believes that this will augment the tennis fan following in India. "Season 1 of IPTL brought Indian tennis fans closer to tennis akin to Grand Slam action like never before. Yet, not everyone was able to experience that action up close and personal. The understanding and familiarity between the four of us has resulted in Grand Slam finals appearances and titles won. This will only contribute to the quality of competitive tennis being played on this tour."
The fan response to the IPTL in its inaugural season was clearly evident in the ticket sales numbers with the competitive edge that tennis lovers find appealing present in abundance during the inaugural season. In 2014, 62% of ticket sales for the India leg of the IPTL were from outside the NCR region with the India leg matches being hosted in New Delhi. With the traditional tennis format being adapted to allow for a maximum of 24 international tennis stars playing on a single day, fans were able to see their favourite players pushed to the edge in the high octane and fast paced ties which pleased even global superstars like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
On how the promo tour lines up with his vision for the IPTL, which will begin its second edition on 2nd December in Japan, Bhupathi is optimistic about repeating the success from 2014. "The response from Season 1 was overwhelming and Season 2 can only exceed expectations. The addition of a new franchise and stars like Rafael Nadal and Leander joining the ranks will surely make for some wonderful tennis on the cards. Ultimately it is about connecting tennis fans in India and Asia with some of the world's best across the singles and doubles format. This exhibition tour is simply a taster of what to expect from IPTL Season 2."