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ITL India Tennis League 2010 in December

New Delhi: The launch of the India Tennis League (ITL) will give the sport a much needed boost in the country, players and coaches feel.

The ITL, which is on the lines of the highly successful Indian Premier League (IPL), is an initiative of the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to take the game to the next level and develop tennis in India.

Indian tennis has been in the need for sponsorships for long and ITL shows the promise, which was long awaited. The ITL will provide an opportunity to young budding players to be a part of franchise teams.

The ITL will be played over two weeks in December, kicking off this year. In the first edition, five franchisee-sponsored teams will battle it out in on a home-away basis in 20 ties, the top two teams from the round robin making the final.

Each franchisee will pick 10 players, two of them foreign players, four from the national circuit and four more from the juniors. The teams will have men's and women's icon players.

A tie constitutes five rubbers --- men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles.

Delhi player Ankita Bhambri said the initiative, if takes place as planned, will be a boon for the junior players as many of them quit tennis fairly early due to lack of funds.

"The AITA has been working on this for some time and I hope it seriously takes off this time round. It looks like a really fascinating concept and should draw a lot of players to it. Most importantly it will be really good for the junior players as it will give them an opportunity to rub shoulders with the experiences and world ranked players," Ankita told IANS.

"We all know it is very difficult to pursue a sport on your own. Sponsorship has always been a huge problem. We need something that can push players to the next level."

Andhra Pradesh's Vishnu Vardhan agreed.

"I spoke to AITA chief (Anil) Khanna sir about this sometime back and he was really excited about it. In India, only 2-3 top players could get sponsorships, so ITL comes across like a good opportunity. If ITL gets even half the success of IPL, then nothing like it," he said.

Khanna honestly believes that the ITL should give Indian tennis the much-needed thrust and it will be a boon for junior players, most of whom end up as tennis drop-outs.

Former Davis Cupper Jaideep Mukherjea welcomed the launch of ITL but also had a word of caution, saying it will not be easy for AITA to rope in top players.

"It definitely looks a good proposal. I really hope it takes off as it will be of great help to the junior players. But I don't think any of the current top players will make to the league. It will only attract those foreign players who are no longer playing on the circuit like Pete Sampras and Andre Aggasi and even their consent could be tough to get," Mukherjea said.

"Also, raising adequate money for the whole programme won't be enough."

India's Davis Cup coach S.P. Misra, who was in Mumbai during the launch, said the AITA at the moment was looking at retrired players.

"All Indian players will be playing. There will be five teams of 8-10 players including a male icon, a female icon and top Indian players, players who play in ITF and challengers and junior players.

AITA is looking for a franchisees and says that within a week, something concrete should come about.

Sports marketing company Golazo has been roped in to scout for franchisees and overseas players.

"We've already got cracking and are talking with overseas players and corporates. It is better to keep these names a secret for the time being," said Ivan Brixi, president of Golazo Asia.

A six-member executive committee headed by Khanna will oversee the operations of the league.

In a bid to bring in some transparency, it is decided that no AITA member will own a franchisee and Khanna is open to the suggestion to bring the body under the purview of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. (IANS)

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