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
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.

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee