ATP Tour

Federer to play in De Jager's IPTL team

2015-11-19 11:37
John-Laffnie de Jager (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It's tennis's answer to cricket's slam-bang 20-20 format and rugby's helter-skelter sevens match-ups - and with most of the world's top stars competing at some stage or another in the three-week, year-ending International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), it's nothing short of a plum appointment for former South African Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager to again be appointed coach of the UAE Royals.

And this time around, for the event that gets underway on December 2, De Jager will have among his charges for the five-team event that will be staged in five Asian countries the legendary, 17-times Grand Slam singles winner Roger Federer, as well as Tomas Berdych and Ana Ivanovic.

The world's number one players, Novak Djokovic, who will be in the Singapore Slammers line-up, and Serena Williams, heading  a powerful Philippines Mavericks team that includes Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, will also be there to add to the stature of the tournament.

Introduced successfully last year, the IPTL will this time increase the number of teams from four to five, with the Japan Warriors the newcomers and not surprisingly including national sporting hero Kei Nishikori, as well as the glamorous Maria Sharapova.

And a team to watch because of its injection of personality players like Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils is the Indian Aces.

"Some were sceptical when the event was introduced last year after the long and arduous official season," says De Jager, "but the team format was followed with interest round the world and exceeded expectations.

"Most important, the players took it seriously and the games were competitive and exciting."

Although luminaries like Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Williams and Sharapova will only participate in part of a hectic IPTL programme, matches have been arranged so that spicy clashes between Djokovic and Federer and Nadal and Federer are set to materialise.

"Because many of the players have switched teams from last year," says De Jager, "the organisers have now insisted that players sign two-year contracts so that they will become identified with one team or another."

De Jager is, however, a little bemused by the fact that his Royals side are down to play 12 matches, while the other sides are playing 11 matches.

"It could prove something of a problem in deciding the two teams for the final in Singapore on December 20," added De Jager, "and to maintain the serious nature of the event, I hope this discrepancy is sorted out in the future."

In the meantime, De Jager will also be focussing his attention on his charity-designed Matchpoint Foundation, which has its headquarters in Pretoria and is aimed at unearthing talent to lift South African tennis to the high levels it enjoyed among the leading countries in the world in the past.

An intensive camp at which former South African star Christo van Rensburg will assist will be at the focal point of the programme, which will also include a "night of the coaches" that will feature leading coaches from other sporting codes apart from the seasoned tennis authorities - and the programme will wind up with a gala dinner in Irene at which veteran former Davis Cup player Abe Segal, known for his Damon Runyon-type witticism in addition to a huge left-handed serve, will be the guest speaker.

"Unfortunately no South Africans will be competing in the IPTL this year," says De Jager. "I'm hoping the Matchpoint Foundation will play a part in changing this in the future."

Read more on:    atp tour  |  john-laffnie de jager  |  tennis

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