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.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
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.

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick