March 7, 2014

How the tennis IPL will work

By heavily borrowing from the greatest show on earth, of course

Andy Murray: soon to be heard muttering "It's tough being me", and threatening to retire from Wimbledon tennis © Getty Images

This week saw the news that tennis chiefs are set to launch an IPL-style tournament with mixed male and female teams made up of current and former greats from across the world. Much like the cricketing version, the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) is set to involve an obscene amount of money alongside intense court battles, but how exactly will the format translate to the planet's most popular racket sport?

Here's a look at how tennis might have to make a few tweaks to replicate the IPL's success:

The original plan involves matches being played simultaneously in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Mumbai, Singapore and Hong Kong. Instead of this, all IPTL games will actually be played in Chennai on concrete surfaces supplied by India Cements. This will not only ensure exciting quickfire rallies but also allow enthusiastic fans no longer welcome at CSK home fixtures another sport to enjoy.

At the player auction there must be a complete lack of strategic logic, with Nadal, Federer and Djokovic being left unsold, whilst a plucky South African journeyman one of the franchise owners once saw play a nice topspin forehand three years ago at the US Open is snapped up for $4m.

The use of Hawk-Eye will be forbidden at the behest of the All India Tennis Association. Instead, all line calls will be made by the on-court umpire. If Leander Paes unfairly loses a point as a result of this, anyone watching will legally be required to smugly point out the irony on Twitter, oblivious to the fact that three million other people have just done the same.

A few cricketers might be brought on board the IPTL to add a bit of cross-format glamour. For example, in between games Sreesanth will be in charge of handing out towels to players. They can then choose whether to hand them back to him or tuck them in their shorts or skirts at important points in the match. Similarly, RP Singh will also be employed as "foot-fault strategist", although this may lead to players suspiciously attempting to serve standing a metre from the net on match point. In a further development, Kamran Akmal has also said he will make himself available to help any player having problems with drop shots.

Commentary will be introduced by Ravi Shastri, who will repeatedly assert that "The ball toss will be crucial", before handing over to John McEnroe and Danny Morrison.

The British Lawn Tennis Association will ban Andy Murray from taking part on the grounds it may improve his technique in high-pressure situations in front of big crowds. Instead, Murray will be made to play matches against Eoin Morgan at Lord's in early May in front of six people and a pigeon.

In the veterans part of the IPTL tournament, Sachin Tendulkar will play specially arranged matches against the 679,789th-ranked player from Bangladesh. They will play as many times as necessary until Tendulkar wins a hundred points, at which point he will be showered with rose-scented tennis balls by Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and Andre Agassi.

To ensure equality and avoid the accusations of cheap sexism often made against the IPL, in the tennis version both ball boys and ball girls will be used. To show there is no chauvinism, however, the girls' importance will be underlined by giving them each a podium to stand on and, unlike the boys who will have to go without, a set of pom poms.

In the event of any drawn matches, the game will go to a "super tie-break". If the teams still cannot be separated, the side owned by N Srinivasan will win.

James Marsh writes Pavilion Opinions. He is also a Tefl teacher whose students learn superlatives by being shown Graham Thorpe videos