The ITPL: A smashing promise

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Jul 28 2014 02:58 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2014 07:35 PM

Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships last July. Photo by Max Rossi, Reuters

I want to hear Maria Sharapova grunt as she serves. I want to see that backhand of hers rip down the line. I want to see those crosscourt volleys and see her rush to the net to pound the ball past a helpless opponent.

Come on. How often do you get to see a statuesque Russian beauty not have a care in the world as she plays with an intensity that is equal to the most focused of male players?

Ah! Speaking of intensity, Andy Murray seems to have written a chapter in that good book. Unfortunately, grass suits his game and I wonder and look forward to seeing how those backhands of his and drop shots will work in the synthetic surface that will be used for the inaugural International Tennis Premier League (ITPL) tournament.

I got this rush of blood to my head when I first heard about the International Premier Tennis League from my Australian boss at the office a couple of months ago. It so happens that the multinational media agency that I work for does business with the organizers.

I have always watched and loved tennis. I played it recreationally and only stopped when a relationship I was in ended in 2008. Ondoy wrecked my tennis rackets and that pretty much put an end to any playing (along with putting on the pounds).

On television, I watched every chance I got. I’ve been to two live tennis events all my life -– Fire and Ice (the Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe exhibition match) and the 2003 US Open when Pete Sampras bade the tennis world goodbye.

I have a bunch of tennis books at home, some of which are my favorites.

What’s even cooler is I’ve got relatives who were former All-Americans and a nephew (who has appeared in a television commercial with Roger Federer) and niece who are up and comers in the US Junior Tennis Circuit.

I think that Filipinos never had it so good when it comes to sports. A handful of athletes and national teams are making waves internationally. We’re now hosting World Cup Qualifiers. We’re seeing more and more top caliber athletes coming over for visits, clinics, or even to play exhibition matches.

And now the International Premier Tennis League is coming to Manila to play it’s inaugural tournament with many of the top stars of tennis coming over. Andy Murray! Jo-Wilfried Tsonga! Carlos Moya! And… Maria Sharapova! Yes… Maria Sharapova who is arguably the most famous female athlete in the world. Organizers acknowledged that she was added to the Philippine franchise -- the Manila Mavericks -- to give the league and the event an impact player in terms of interest, buzz, and corporate dollars and pesos.

This event has the potential to give the local tennis scene a badly needed shot in the arm.

Sometimes, I feel that local tennis is only known from a pretty player in Christine Patrimonio or because we have some Fil-Ams (Cecil) representing us in competitions. In the old Atlas Sports Weekly, I followed the late Ajay Pathak’s column with great interest.

While Sharapova will draw a lot of interest (and I hope for more than her looks but also for her gritty play), there are others on the Manila team that I look forward to watch.

Andy Murray

Nationality: British
Current Ranking: 10
Highest Ranking: 2
Career Title – Singles: 28
Career Titles – Doubles: 2
Grand Slam Single Titles: 2
Davis Cup Singles (W/L): 16-1

Murray is the first British player to win Wimbledon in 77 years and the only one from the UK to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era. Also won Olympic Gold during the 2012 London Olympics.

Maria Sharapova

Nationality: Russian
Current Ranking: 6
Highest Ranking: 1
Career Titles – Singles: 32
Career Titles – Doubles: 3
Grand Slam Single Titles: 5

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Nationality: French
Current Ranking: 16
Highest Ranking: 5
Career Titles – Singles: 10
Career Titles – Doubles: 4
Davis Cup Singles (W/L): 13-3

Carlos Moya

Nationality: Spanish
Current Ranking: Inactive
Highest Ranking: 1
Career Titles – Singles: 20
Career Titles – Doubles: 0
Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1
Davis Cup Titles: 1
Davis Cup Singles (W/L): 20-7

Daniel Nestor

Nationality: Canadian
Current Ranking: 5 (doubles)
Highest Ranking: 1
Career Titles – Singles: 0
Career Titles – Doubles: 85
Grand Slam Doubles Titles: 8
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles Titles: 4
Davis Cup Doubles: 31-8

The doubles specialist who has won the doubles title in all four Grand Slams, Masters series events, Year-End championships, and the Olympics!

Treat Huey

Nationality: Filipino
Current Ranking: 29 (doubles)
Highest Ranking: 20
Career Titles – Singles: 0
Career Titles – Doubles: 3

Another doubles specialist who will most likely team up with Daniel Nestor. Has reached the finals thrice of the ATP World Tour. Won his lone title at the 2012 Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

Kirsten Flipkens

Nationality: Belgian
Current Ranking: 46 (singles)
Highest Ranking: 13
Career Title – Singles: 1
Career Title – Doubles: 0
Fed Cup Singles (W/L): 9-16

The twist in this tournament is that it isn’t your regular tennis match but an entirely different one. We’ll tackle that in great length next. But in the meantime… talk about a year-end buzz regarding the International Tennis Premier League. No doubt, this will be the “Fire and Ice” for this generation of Filipino sports fans.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.