New Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) Leander Paes expressed his concern at the low turnout on the opening day of the India leg of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) here on Thursday and hoped footfalls will increase on the remaining two days of the tournament. A sparse crowd greeted the India leg of the franchise-based tournament spread across five “non-traditional” tennis countries — India, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Singapore and Japan — with large parts of the multi-coloured seats of the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium remaining vacant.
Paes said he didn’t expect such a low turnout for the first day of the India leg in the second edition of the tournament in the country. “Quite surprised with the low turnout. But I think there is an issue with the gates,” Paes said at the post-match press conference after contributing to his team Legendari Japan Warriors’ 24-21 win against OBI UAE Royals. The enthusiastic crowd who turned up to see some of the greats of the game live in action were in for a rude shock while trying to enter the stadium. An overzealous police created utter confusion and chaos diverting traffic and altering entry gates. Fans and media personnel were left taking to their heels trying to rush into the stadium to catch the action, hurrying through the pavements while moving from one gate to the other for entry. It resulted in big jams on the roads adjacent to the stadium as clueless spectators tried to enter the stadium. Paes hoped the attendance in the stands would be a kinder in the next two days of the India leg.
“If these stands were a lot more full, it would be a magic,” the 42-year-old said. Paes added he was excited to be part of IPTL for the first time and would love to play for the defending champions Indian Aces next year. He is signed to play for his another season in IPTL and added the tournament can contribute to the development of tennis in the country. “IPTL can contribute to tennis in India because it showcases top-class tennis. IPTL is a rub-off of IPL. Would love to play for the Indian team. There was a lot of deliberation as to which team I would play. Hope to play for Indian Aces next year.” The 18-time Grand Slam winner also praised his one-time doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi for coming up with an exciting concept as IPTL and added he took some time to adapt to the fast-paced entertainment paced exhibition style matches of the tournament. He also observed there were several similarities with the Champions Tennis League (CTL) tournament that he played in last year.
“I am having fun in IPTL. It takes the time to adapt to the format, rules and technicalities. But I have found my rhythm. Normally, I experience some difficulty in playing in exhibition matches. But I have learnt to adapt.”