Without a doubt, the Coca-Cola IPTL has been a huge hit in the subcontinent ever since the first shot hit by Rohan Bopanna in the Philippines.
The league has not just been a hot topic amongst the Indian sport fraternity but has also created a drive globally, thus creating a new-found love for tennis in the region. The reception for the players has been so resounding that it has seemed like tennis is the most popular sport in Asia.
There are many innovative elements that have been included in this exciting new format that may one day even be borrowed by the official circuits. Some of these entertaining new-fangled rules are:
1. No-ad system: At 40-all, the player that wins the following point and the game.
2. Shot clock: 20 seconds between points, 45 seconds during change overs, 60 seconds for time-outs, 3 minutes between sets. Any time violation will result in a point loss for the violating team. Only the chair-umpire can set, stop or re-start the shot clock.
3. Time-Out: Each team has a 60 seconds time-out that can be used only once per set.
4. “Power Point”: Once per set, every receiving player can call for a “Power Point”. If that player wins he will receive 2 points.
All this has made for unpredictably engrossing tennis, and has succeeded in bringing the crowds to the stadiums in large numbers. But the questions that are emerging from the success of the tournament haven’t revolved just around the off-season. Many are seriously asking: could this ultimately lead to the birth of a Grand Slam in Asia?
For a long time now, the Grand Slams or the Majors have been the preserve of the four strongholds of tennis – US, UK, France and Australia. There have been frequent calls for the expansion of the sport’s principal events beyond these countries, but none of those calls have been answered yet.
But the fact still remains that tennis isn’t one of the most loved sports in India, and while a few people do enjoy the sport immensely, a Grand Slam at this stage might not be the most profitable venture for the organizers. Professional tennis isn’t prevalent in India as much as cricket or any other sport, and time must be given for tennis to progress at the ground level before this mammoth move be taken.
The same can be said about the other countries in this part of the world; while China, Japan and Singapore have decent volumes of tennis followers, it would still take some time for the popularity to reach the level that a Grand Slam requires.
After winning his doubles and mixed doubles matches with Indian team-mates Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna, Federer celebrated with a court-side dance, before France’s Gael Monfils joined in. “It’s crazy but it’s good fun. I definitely think there’s a place for this,” Federer said, adding, “It’s competitive, it’s serious but it’s still light-hearted.”
The likes of Federer, Djokovic and Sampras coming to India is something we should all be proud about. Watching legends of so many eras competing against each other and displaying their mastery on court is fantastic to watch, and this is exactly what the Indian tennis fan has been craving for since years. And who knows, if the sport touches enough youngsters through this tournament, there could be a sizeable contingent of successful players from the region soon, and by extension, a sizeable contingent of spectators who would pay to watch the action.
So although the possibility of a Grand Slam in Asia seems rather far-fetched at this point, it cannot be counted out permanently. The time may come when tennis is accepted as a mainstream sport in our country and enjoys the fan-following that sports like cricket and hockey do. But till then, the Coca-Cola IPTL serves as the perfect medium to propagate the reach and popularity of tennis in this country and continent.