Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras express doubts over new International Premier Tennis League

 

Concerns that the much-trumpeted International Premier Tennis League might not be all it seems emerged in London on Monday when two of its main attractions said they knew little about the project. Andre Agassi said he would not be able to play on the dates he had been allotted, which he said conflicted with those he had given to organisers, while Pete Sampras said he was “not sure” where and when he would be playing.

The Americans, who were playing an exhibition match against each other at Earls Court on Monday night as part of World Tennis Day, are on an initial roster of 28 players released by IPTL organisers. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Serena Williams head the list of current players involved in the project, which is the brainchild of the Indian doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi.

The players have been split into four teams, based in Singapore, Mumbai, Bangkok and Dubai, which are scheduled to play each other on a home and away basis between 28 November and 14 December. The players were recruited by their teams at an “auction” in Dubai on Sunday.

Agassi said he had learned –“to my very big surprise” –that he had been listed to play for the Singapore team, whose home matches are set for 28, 29 and 30 November. “I agreed to December dates and agreed to be gone no more than five days including travel, and somehow now it’s over Thanksgiving [27 November],” Agassi said. “It’s achievable for me to commit for three matches, but once you start talking about six or seven days, it’s too much of a price to pay, missing out on my family, missing out on many business things I’m responsible for.

“I don’t have all the facts and if that’s 100 per cent accurate, we’re connecting with the organisers to make sure nobody is left in the lurch.”

Sampras, who has been listed to play for the Mumbai franchise, said: “I feel like I have committed to three matches. I’m not sure when or where yet, I believe in a couple of cities, maybe the Dubai, India part. But I think they’re still working on the schedule.”

The IPTL has so far declined to reveal even the identities of the team owners, who between them are said to have committed to paying a total of nearly $24m (£14.3m) at an average of more than £500,000 to each player. Agassi said he did not know the identity of the owner of his Singapore team.

Leading players have complained for years about the shortness of the off-season. Now it has been lengthened to seven weeks for men and 10 weeks for women, there have inevitably been murmurings about the fact that some are using the extra time to play in lucrative exhibition matches.

“It’s different now, the season ends early November,” Agassi said when asked if he would have committed to the IPTL during his playing days. “I didn’t have that luxury because I took that time away to prepare for Australia. So the question becomes what are you going to prioritise in your life [and are there] arguments for taking a high-paid opportunity and maximising this time in your life?

“There would be another argument to be made for others who probably should say no to that and use that time to prepare for what it is they have an opportunity to accomplish. It’s a rare window of time. From an economic standpoint it was hard to tempt me when  I played.”

Sampras said the off-season had been so short in his day that he had “barely enough time” to prepare for the Australian Open. “The schedule’s a little shorter these days, [it] gives the guys an opportunity to play a few exhibitions, make a few extra bucks,” he said.

He added with a smile: “We all know they need it, so if someone’s dumb enough to pay them, they’d be dumb not to take it.”

Other exhibition matches were being played in Hong Kong and New York (Murray and Djokovic were due to meet in Madison Square Garden) as part of World Tennis Day, which is designed to encourage more people to play the sport. The day also featured the latest enshrinements into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Among those to be  honoured was Nick Bollettieri, one of Agassi’s former coaches and a columnist for The  Independent.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game