Schedule of matches

Dec. 6 Singapore Slammers vs Japan WarriorsUAE Royals vs Philippine Mavericks

Dec. 7 Indian Aces vs UAE Royals Japan Warriors vs Philippine Mavericks

Dec. 8 UAE Royals vs Singapore Slammers Indian Aces vs Philippine Mavericks

MANILA, Philippines – For three nights in December, Filipino tennis fans will get to see superstars Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal plus a sprinkling of others live in action at the Mall of Asia Arena.

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It’s the second season of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), a five-stop tennis festival that features over 30 great players past, present and future.

In a press conference held yesterday at the Premier Cafe of the MOA Arena, it was confirmed that Williams will see action on all three play dates of the Philippine Mavericks.

Williams, seeking to become only the fourth woman in history to win all four Grand Slam titles in a single season, is team captain of the host team for this year’s IPTL.

“Yes, Serena will play three nights in Manila and Rafa (Nadal) two nights,” said IPTL founder Mahesh Bhupathi during a video-phone-patch from Dubai.

“This time we expect something bigger and better. Of course with Serena there and Rafa’s Spanish blood connecting to the Filipinos,” added Bhupathi.

Joining Williams in the Mavericks lineup are Treat Huey, Mark Philippoussis, Richard Gasquet, Jarmila Gajdosova, Borna Coric, Sabine Lisicki and Milos Raonic in place of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Bhupathi, the former Grand Slam doubles champion from India, said everybody, from the players and fans to the organizers and sponsors, can’t wait for the second leg of the IPTL.

Manila hosts the second stop on Dec. 6 to 8 after the kickoff leg in Japan on Dec. 2-4. Then the event swings by New Delhi, Dubai and Singapore until Dec. 20.

The Indian Aces were last year’s champions, pocketing the top prize of $1 million. The same purse awaits this year’s winner. Runner-up gets $500,000.

“Nadal is very excited to make his trip to the Philippines,” said Bhupathi.

Hosting the press gathering were IPTL Manila leg project head Clementine Poblete-Apacible and SM Lifestyle Entertainment Inc. PR and advertising manager Stephanie Henares.

Nadal, winner of 14 Grand Slam singles titles, will play for the Indian Aces alongside Gael Monfils, Agnieszka Radwanska, Fabrice Santoro, Ivan Dodig, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.

Maria Sharapova, last year’s skipper for the Mavericks, will now lead the Japan Warriors, who also boast the presence of Daniela Hantuchova and Marat Safin.

The UAE Royals will have Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic and Goran Ivanisevic in its core while the Singapore Slammers will be bannered by Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios, Belinda Bencic and Carlos Moya.

Suiting up in Manila for the Japan Warriors are Vasek Pospisil, Leander Paes, Lucas Poille, Kurumi Nara, Hantuchova and Safin the Indian Aces Nadal and company the UAE Royals Tomas Berdych, Kristina Mladenovic, Daniel Nestor, Ivanisevic and Ivanovic and the Singapore Slammers Karolina Pliskova, Marcelo Melo, Dustin Brown, Bencic, Kyrgios and Moya.

Bhupathi said last year’s Manila leg proved to be the highlight of the inaugural IPTL season.

“The response in Manila has always been most exciting. The overall feedback from all the players was that they all loved playing here. A big part was the crowd and the amazing stadium,” he said.

Poblete-Apacible said this early, fifty percent of the tickets, transferrable for three nights, are gone. They are priced P49,000 VIP, P40,000 patron, P23,000 lower box, P11,600 upper box and P2,600 general admission.

“Grab your tickets and the best seats now,” she urged the fans.

On paper, Bhupathi pointed to the UAE Royals as this year’s favorite.

“They have Federer, Ivanovic and Ivanisevic,” he said.

Of course, what’s on paper is not what you get on the court.

“As we saw last year,” Bhupathi said.