New Delhi: The Champions Tennis League must not be perceived as competition to the Mahesh Bhupathi-launched International Premier Tennis League, but merely represents an attempt to bring more international tennis to India, says tennis legend Vijay Amritraj.
After veteran star Bhupathi announced his ambitious league, in which the biggest tennis stars are to feature, the All India Tennis Association and Amritraj joined hands to launch the CTL. The format of the two leagues is similar but there will be no auction in the CTL – only a draw will decide the team compositions.
"How do you counter something else? There are tournaments back to back. One tournament does not compete with the next tournament. The tournaments end up making a tour,” the former Davis Cup star said.
"The great thing here is that Mahesh has taken the initiative to do international tennis across Asia, which is fantastic for Asian cities. We are doing it in India, which will be great for Indian cities. That's the key element and driving force," Amritraj told PTI from Los Angeles.
Asked if it was mere a coincidence that the two leagues would be played around the same time, Amritraj said, "There is only that much of a window to do it. The advantage is that players can play one or both. If they don't want to play either, it's up to them."
While CTL will be played between November 17 and 26, the IPTL has been scheduled from November 28 to December 20.
Amritraj, who reached the singles quarterfinals at the Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1973, said a lot of people have been trying to get another ATP tournament to India but the efforts were not fructifying. The Chennai Open is the only ATP 250 event the country hosts.
"The international calendar is very full. It's difficult to get an ATP or WTA tournament. So when we were discussing this concept, we were trying to put it together so that we are able to get international tennis in different cities in India.
"This is something I have played in the 1970s in the U.S. and it was very popular. We tweaked the format to able to make it palatable for India and include both foreigners and Indians," the 60-year-old, who is now a popular commentator, said.
Amritraj said CTL, which is expected to have players ranked 5-25 competing, will benefit Indian tennis in three big ways.
One, at least 18 Indian players, including 12 juniors, would be involved; second, international tennis will reach at least six Indian cities; and third, it will help promote the game at grassroots level, Amritraj said.
Amritraj said each of the six teams will have at least one male Indian player while one Indian boy and a girl will get exposure. He said five cities – Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai – have been confirmed. The sixth city could be Kolkata.
However, he kept the identity of the confirmed players and team owners under wraps saying, "We don't want to put three names. We will put all the names together."
Amritraj also informed that it will be CTL which will pay the players and not the team owners and that they expect to earn profit from the league from its third edition.
"There will be tickets. Each owners will be able to sell tickets," he said.