Belfast Telegraph

Premier tennis smash and grab is pure and simple greed

There's nothing I like more in my sport than a good, old-fashioned dollop of greed and hypocrisy. Take a bow the International Premier League Tennis.

This nonsense of an event made its debut this week with trips to those tennis hotbeds of the Philippines and Singapore as the gravy train completed two of its scheduled four stops.

For those not in the know, this is the latest sport to use the vast sums of wealth floating around in eastern parts - and I'm not talking about Glentoran here - to bring together sports stars in a common goal. Money. Apologies, that should have read 'love of (insert name of sport here)'.

Hence why we have wonderfully named teams such as the Micromax Indian Aces, the DBS Singapore Slammers, the Manila Mavericks and the Musafir.com UAE Royal Aces, each of whom will host their 'home' games in four round-robin events of three days each. Still with me?

Translated this means four teams of highly-paid players will travel to five star hotels in lovely places to be pampered to within an inch of their lives and then play a series of exhibition games before a pointless trophy is handed over. A bit like the Davis Cup but with loads of money.

My cynicism was pricked early on when commentator Julian Goodall told us on Sky that 'tennis fans everywhere have been united in their appreciation of the sportainment on offer as the very best players in the world have represented their sport with great pride.'

I'll stop you there. Sportainment? If we're going to make up words, from where I was looking it was more shiny and bright.

First up in the second event in the series on Tuesday morning was the UAE Royal Bank of Scotland versus the Miramax Indian Aces Highly Paid before the big South East Asia derby between the visiting Manila Mercenaries and the Singapore Shameless.

So, what's it all about then? Well, there are five sets per match, with men's and ladies' singles, a men's doubles, a mixed doubles and a men's legends set, with games played to the first to six. Now it gets complicated.

There's no tie-break at 5-5. Well, there is, but it's called a shoot-out and is played over five minutes but remember you can play your 'happiness power point' during this. Excuse me?

Of course for stars exhausted after the long and torturous season that puts such a crippling demand on players, it's natural then that, with the season over, many of them limp onto private jets to travel across the globe. The amazing recuperative powers of vast sums of cash should be investigated forthwith.

Thus why we heard of Ana Ivanovic donning an air stewardess uniform to serve her fellow stars on their flight, with cynics saying that it was probably her best service in many years while some of us got to chalk off another item off our bucket list to dos.

On the plus side, the event does allow men and women to compete on the same playing field, or court, striking yet another blow for equality, although I'm not quite sure just what a scantily-clad dancing girl does for that cause but hey, it's a Premier League, you can't have sportainment without a jiggling lady.

The fans were out in force and, as we panned into the crowd, we saw two of them holding up signs with Roger Federer and Pete Sampras' name on them. A crying shame they weren't there, though.

"Nice to see they've been working hard, always good to come with signs if you want to get yourself on the box," said Goodall.

"We didn't see too many in Manila," he added. Of course you didn't, where would they get their hands on any paper for such a job?

My main thought at this stage, though, was when the Mavericks appeared would their power point request be accompanied with 'here comes my happiness (point) again' but no, what happens is that someone throws a towel onto the court. This means the point is worth double for the receiver, a bit like Family Fortunes, without Micromax Bygraves.

They were also minus Andy Murray, meaning he missed out on taking on some of Singapore's finest, including Serena Williams and Andre Agassi.

"They do not come much better in the entertainment world, well, in the sportainment (there's that word again) he's probably No.1," said co-commentator Robbie Koenig.

"What a career, what a character and he's here for us to see in living colour, double A is in the house," he added, which clearly meant Ailing and Aged as Mark Philippoussis annihilated him.

But if you want proof that it isn't real, then the sight of Serena chortling as she lost her doubles match rather than wanting to flay and impale her opponent on the umpire's chair was enough for me.

Still they gave her every chance, with the Mavericks winning 28-21, her 6-4 win over Kirsten Flipkens, who I'm sure used to be a kids' TV show in the Seventies, meant it was all over, except it wasn't as the winning side has to win the last game to win, thus if Serena had won seven more games, then she'd have won 13-4 in the first to six.

Confused? They were, as they all stood on court wondering what the Flipkens was happening before she made it 6-5 to lose by less and win, and spare us from the Super Shoot-out where there would be a seven minute Men's Singles game.

Premier League it may be, but if this is the best that tennis can provide then can I throw the towel in now?

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