Singapore: Founder Mahesh Bhupathi on Thursday said the new International Premier Tennis League would add two more cities next year and had been forced to turn down two others as interest grows.
The Indian former doubles player said "I've got a line of people waiting outside my door" after the fast-paced IPTL's TV-friendly format proved a hit with players and fans. "We're definitely going to add two cities next year," Bhupathi told journalists in Singapore, during the four-stop tournament's second leg.
"We have a lot of interest now, we have about four cities ready to sign on the dotted line by the end of next month. "We unfortunately can't do all four, just for the sustainability of slow and steady growth, so we'll take two and we'll announce them probably when we announce our players in the week of February 14."
A strong player line-up and quickfire play, interspersed with a DJ and cheerleaders, has proved popular in both Manila and Singapore, the first two stops so far. A warm reception is also expected in New Delhi, where Roger Federer will make his first appearance, before the inaugural IPTL wraps up in Dubai next week.
Bhupathi did not name the two new cities but he said: "We would like to take tennis ideally to cities that don't have this kind of world-class entertainment or sport." He added: "In Manila last week, they haven't seen world-class tennis ever and it was very heartening to see the fans receive the players. "They were treated like the Beatles, especially Maria (Sharapova) and Andy (Murray)."
Players have been positive about the new venture, especially the experience of playing as a team, and Bhupathi said he was pleased with their response.
"Serena (Williams) just came to me and said 'I'm actually depressed because I have to leave this team and go home'," he said. "She wanted to see if she could continue in India, but we have visa issues."
He admitted details of the format, initially confusing for fans and players alike, were something of a work in progress as the new tournament beds in. Innovations include no let serves or no advantages, "happiness power points" worth double, a 20-second serve clock and a timed, five minute shoot-out at 5-5.
Each tie consists of five single-set matches in men's and women's singles, mixed doubles, men's doubles and men's legends. But Bhupathi said he had no doubt that the IPTL, after muscling its way into what was already regarded as a crowded tennis calendar, was now a permanent fixture.
"The four Grand Slams are the pillars of our sport and that's where the more serious tennis takes place but here they're playing... for each other," he said. "We've carved out our space in the tennis calendar I think, and we're very happy about it," Bhupathi added.