MANILA, Philippines - Tennis favorite Maria Sharapova might no longer be around, but Filipino sports fans are in for a big treat when the second edition of the International Premier Tennis League returns from December 6 to 8 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippines.
ITPL vice president Abishek Ponia announced on Thursday, May 21, that nine-time French Open men’s singles winner Rafael Nadal of Spain will be in Manila to spearhead the defending champion Micromax Indian Aces against the hometown squad, renamed the Philippine Mavericks, during the three-day tennis showcase
Currently ranked No. 7 in the Association of Tennis Professional world ratings, the Spanish claycourt specialist will be one of two Grand Slam champions in the series, the other being world No. 1 Serena Williams, who will be making her debut for the Mavericks.
Williams, who boasts of 19 Grand Slam titles and the first female pro to pocket over $60 million in prize money, used to play for the Singapore Slammers in the inaugural season of the IPTL.
“I had such a grand time in Manila last year and I look forward to playing for the Mavericks this season,” said Williams in a short video during yesterday’s press conference launching the event held at the Coral entrance lobby of the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 28-year-old “Rafa” will be joining the squad composed of Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Gael Montfils, Polish star Agniezka Radwanska, Croatia’s Ivan Dodig, No. 29 in the world, and Indian bets Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.
On the other hand, Serena will be joining Maverick teammates Jo Wilfred Tsonga of France, compatriot Richard Gasquet, Croatian Borna Coric, the youngest player in the ATP top 100 (No. 54) at 18, former Aussie ace Mark Philippousis and hometown representative and doubles specialist Treat Huey.
The female Maverick members are Australian Jarmila Gajdosova and Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, a losing finalist in the 2011 Wimbledon Open women’s singles competition.
“We hope to score an ace when IPTL goes back to Manila and make it a smashing success at the MOA, the home of the Philippine Mavericks,” said SM Leisure Lifestyle Entertainment Inc. president Edgar Tejerero, one of the team’s co-owners, noted at the press conference.
Tejerero; IPTL VP for Operations Abhishek Ponia; Philippine Sports Commission Chairman Richie Garcia; Philippine Mavericks Co-Owner and Team Manager Jean-Henri Lhuillier; Phil Mavericks Co-Owner Haresh Hiranand; Philippine Mavericks Co-Owner Kevin Belmonte
At the same briefing was co-owner Jean Henri Lhuillier, who pointed out that the entry of Williams “has made our team much deeper since Serena is both good in singles and doubles.”
Lhuillier added that the top-ranked American player was committed to see action in two legs for the Mavericks.
Ponia said that Manila leg will be the second stop of the IPTL following the start of the country-hopping, star-studded competition in Singapore the week before.
Sharapova, who played for the Mavericks last year and was the undoubted main attraction of the IPTL Manila leg in October 2014, was drafted by the newcomer Japan Warriors, making the event a five-squad competition.
The world No. 2 ranked Russian beauty and defending French Open women’s singles titlist joins mercurial countryman Marat Safin, the 2000 US Open and 2005 Australian Open men’s singles champ, France’s Lucas Pouille, Vasek Pospisil of Czechoslovakia, and 2014 US Open losing finalist Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Czech stunner Daniela Hantuchova and Japanese Kurumi Nara are the other women on the Warriors squad.
The other teams in the league are the Singapore Slammers and the UAE Royals bannered by Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Swiss ace Roger Federer, respectively.
All five teams will be vying for the prize pot of $1 million (roughly P44.4 million) in the tournament. - Rappler.com