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By Ronnie Nathanielsz

Sat, 26 Jul 2014

One of the biggest sporting events coming to the Philippines this November and which deserves all-out public support is the International Premier Tennis League, a brainchild of one of India?s finest doubles players in recent years, Mahesh Bhupathi.

Bhupathi has effectively served an ?ace? by the fact that the inaugural tournament with teams representing the United Arab Emirates ?Royals?, Singapore ?Slammers?, Indian ?Aces? and the Manila ?Mavericks? will kick off at the famed Smart Araneta Coliseum from November 27-30.

It should be considered an honor for our country and the least we could do is to make it a worthwhile endeavor and show the world what the Philippines is capable of achieving in the sporting arena. Indeed, the whole world will be watching as some skeptics have expressed doubts whether the event could be pulled off. We are bound to help the IPTL organizers to show them, it can.

As Mahesh said he chose the Araneta Coliseum because of its history and certainly nobody can fault him for that.
There were many who doubted whether the ?Thrilla in Manila? a project of them President Marcos could be carried out. It was and in resounding fashion and even today people around the world remember the historic ?Thrilla in Manila.?

As we?ve often said who could ever forget the greatest heavyweight championship of all-time, the incomparable ?Thrilla in Manila? between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier?

Bhupathi would like to project the inaugural IPTL tournament in Manila as the ?Thrilla in Manila II.?

While it may not approximate the sheer emotion and drama that surrounded the ?Thrilla in Manila? there is no question that in terms of excitement and sporting excellence the IPTL should be a classic.

To tennis fans and even lovers of beauty as many Filipinos are, the presence of the absolutely lovely Wimbledon women?s singles champion Maria Sharapova should fill the hearts especially of male tennis fans who often marvel at her grace and charm while others are somehow intrigued at her grunts when playing.
Her superb all-around game in itself should serve as an attraction and when Bhupathi told us that Serena Williams would also be in Manila it meant that two of the biggest names in women?s tennis will give us something to cheer about.

Then of course there is Andy Murray, the former Wimbledon men?s singles champion who together with Sharapova will banner the Manila ?Mavericks? along with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spain?s Carlos Moya and is bound to provide us with the kind of tennis our fans often stay up late at night to follow on television.

Besides, the Philippines world-ranked doubles star Treat Huey who has often carried the load in Davis Cup competition will be the ?Mavericks? playing-coach and is excited about his assignment. Treat has his own following and they are bound to enjoy watching him team up with the greats in Manila.

If the tweets by people watching the big stars in the major tournaments around the world is any indication then Filipinos are clearly hooked on the game.

Unlike the sad experience of the NBA All Stars fiasco, Bhupathi assured us the IPTL event will push through because the players are not members of any association that binds them in adherence to as rigid an implementation of its rules as the NBA. Besides, the players all signed contracts when money was laid on the table and they will be playing for total prize money of US$ 1 million which guarantees that the matches will be competitive because the results will count in the final tally.

In fairness to the NBA players who came ? and went ? without playing a game as thousands of fans had hoped for, they wanted so much to play against our Gilas Pilipinas national team that will see action in the World Cup in Spain in late August. But we have been assured the players in the inaugural IPTL tournament will show up unless someone breaks a leg!

It must be made clear however, that all the superstars who will banner the other three teams won?t be in Manila. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two particular favorites will probably skip the Manila leg but the less popular players on the teams are still among the finest in the world and their seeing action in Manila should be most welcome.

Another most welcome aspect of the event is that tickets are reasonably priced with the most expensive costing around P15,000 and the cheapest in the vicinity of P750. No definite price list has as yet been announced but it will before tickets go on sale in early August.

What ticket buyers must appreciate is that they will get a chance to watch some 20 top tennis players in action each day.
Tennis ? and indeed any sporting event ? deserves our peoples support because sports embodies the values and virtues of discipline, hard work, courage, fair play and sportsmanship. The IPTL event should serve as an inspiration to our own players and encourage our young men and women to get into the sport and if they are in it already, to watch and learn from the greats. It will be an experience of a lifetime.

If people can spend huge sums of money to watch entertainers of all types perform in Manila, there is absolutely no reason why they cannot spend even less on following the action in the IPTL Manila leg ?live? at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for, after all, tennis played by the stars at their level, is in itself the finest entertainment you could hope for.

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