Rafael Nadal is "understood to be the highest-profile player committed" to the Int'l Premier Tennis League, according to Simon Briggs of the London TELEGRAPH. The new competition, developed along the lines of the successful Indian Premier League of cricket, "will launch this coming weekend with an auction in Dubai." Nadal is believed to be earning $1M a night for his contribution as one of the "marquee" players in a scheme developed by Indian doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi, "who is branching out into the world of business." The competition will be staged between Nov. 28 and Dec. 20 in five cities -- Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Singapore and Hong Kong -- and each team "will bid for its players on Sunday at the Oberoi hotel in Dubai." There are at least three players of the women's top 10 "who are also understood to have committed to the project," led by the two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka. Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and Polish No. 1 Agnieszka Radwanska "are believed to have put their names down," but Roger Federer "is not thought to be involved." Andy Murray "is still in discussions with Bhupathi" (TELEGRAPH, 2/25). In London, Simon Briggs wrote "If all goes to plan, five teams will send their minions to the Oberoi Hotel armed with minimum budgets of $4 million (£2.4 million) each." The teams will sign up men, women and former champions, "but who will commit, and where is the money coming from? At the moment the IPTL’s creator, Mahesh Bhupathi, feels like one of those movie characters who has 48 hours to save the planet. He might pull it off, but if he succeeds, it will be by the skin of his teeth (TELEGRAPH, 2/25).
Events and Attractions
UFC organizers "launched the first in a series of five events" to be staged in the Arab region over the next two years, with two set for Abu Dhabi. The first UFC Fight Night will take place April 11 at the du Arena, one day removed from the four-year anniversary of the last bouts staged in the capital (THE NATIONAL, 2/25). ... Former England coach Ben Ryan "has lent his backing to Hong Kong again becoming the jewel in the sevens crown," with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union "promising they will fight for their event to be made the climactic final leg in the World Series." The Int'l Rugby Board "will consider restructuring the tournament." Ryan, now in charge of last year's Hong Kong winners Fiji, said, "I wouldn't mind the series ending in Hong Kong. This is one thing I would want changed in the World Series if I had my way" (SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 2/25).