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BW Businessworld

'Champions Tennis League To Focus On Popularising The Game For Now. Economies Come Later'

In an interview with BW|Businessworld, Vijay Amritraj talks about developing quality single players, economies attached with running the league and more

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Despite breeding champions in men's and women's doubles, excluding Vijay Amritraj, Indian tennis players haven’t ever made it big as Singles champs. Former tennis ace Amritraj says that to make into the top 50, Indian tennis players need to play more with players of international standards. It is here that the Champions Tennis League (CTL), organised by him, will come in handy, providing a platform for domestic players to get exposure to global players, helping them improve their skills.

After a successful inaugural edition last year, the Amritraj-promoted Champions Tennis League will see 13 matches being played over a two-week period. CTL features six city-based teams across the country, put into two zones. Each zone has three teams, where all teams play each other in a home and away format. The team winning the highest number of games in their respective zone will play each other in the grand finale to win finals. The six teams include Punjab Marshalls, Mumbai Tennis Masters, Raipur Rangers, Nagpur Orangers, Hyderabad Aces and V Chennai Warriors.

In an interview with BW|Businessworld, Amritraj talks about developing quality single players, economies attached with running the league and more. Excerpts

What is the main objective of organising an event like CTL?
The main reason is certainly to popularise the game in the country and aspire more youths to adopt the game. I personally want Indian players to shine in the Singles category.

In the present edition of CTL, aspiring domestic players will benefit from the 24 international players playing along with them. It is a great opportunity for them to learn from the best and mushroom their talent.

In the Davis Cup, it is very hard to compete with players with world rank 40 and 50, if you don't have players ranked within 100. If you have a player in top 50 then you have a very good chance to compete in the World Group.

Why have Indian players performed so badly in Singles?
Becoming a pro in Singles completely relies on the individual effort, desire, dedication and sacrifice besides having world class training centres. Condition of training centres in India is just fine but after a certain level many players move West to polish their skills.

We don't have the ability to teach in academies that are available in say Florida or Barcelona.

What is the USP of CTL and who all are participating? What is the price money for winners and runner up?
Players like Martina Hingis, Flavia Pennetta, Jelena Jankovic, Thomas Johansson and others will battle it out to win the second edition of tennis championship. It is going to be a very competitive tournament and a delight for spectators.

The winning team will receive price money of Rs 1 crore whereas the runner up team will walk away with Rs 50 lakh.

How has been the response so far?
The response we are receiving for CTL is terrific. The inaugural event has been awesome. We are very sure the league will get better and bigger in the years to come.

What is the economics attached with running the tennis league?
It is a win-win situation for everyone associated with the league. In the first 3-5 years, we are concentrating more on popularising the game while in the long run the league will look into the economic perspective. Franchises make revenues from the local sponsorships they have, tickets they sell and from the 18 player appearances that they may want to monetize.

You must be facing some challenges in running the league. Please explain...
The biggest challenge for the tournament is to expand in other cities. The availability of players is also a concern. Even if the players are willing to play in the league, their busy calendar prevents them. In future, we would like to increase the number of teams to eight but as of now we are okay with six teams.