Serena Williams gives Singapore a miss
IPTL director Bhupathi confirms absence of American superstar for local leg of three-city tournament
Singaporean fans of Serena Williams are set to miss out on seeing the star yet again.
The world No. 2 will not be in town for the Singapore leg of this year's International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), which starts at the Singapore Indoor Stadium today.
This was confirmed by IPTL founder and managing director Mahesh Bhupathi yesterday.
Williams, who played for the Singapore Slammers in the IPTL's inaugural season in 2014, has not competed since early September after a defeat by Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals of the US Open.
The 22-time Grand Slam winner qualified for the season-ending WTA Finals here in October, but withdrew for the second year running, saying she wanted to focus on recuperating from a shoulder injury.
The Straits Times had reported on Nov 25 that the 35-year-old American would return to action in Singapore to headline the home side, the OUE Singapore Slammers.
But, in a phone interview with The New Paper shortly after touching down in Singapore yesterday evening, Bhupathi said: "No, she is not coming.
"We've had some challenges this year and, unfortunately, Serena will not be here.
"But she has played the past two years with us, and we're looking forward to her competing again next year."
The third season of the IPTL, a mixed-team tournament using an abbreviated tennis format, kicked off last weekend with the Japan leg in Saitama.
This year, it features four teams playing in three cities, down from the five teams competing in five cities last year.
After the Singapore leg, the final will take place in Hyderabad, India, from Friday to Sunday.
Defending IPTL champions, the Slammers, and are up against the Japan Warriors, the Indian Aces and the UAE Royals.
Bhuphati had previously said that "economic challenges" contributed to the IPTL's downsizing and late confirmation of details, which have also seen ticket prices slashed by nearly 50 per cent.
But he promised the tournament would bounce back strongly next year.
Despite Williams' absence, top men's and women's players from the past and present will be in action over the next three days.
Aussie world No. 13 Nick Kyrgios will turn out for the Slammers while Serb former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic will star for the UAE Royals.
When asked about ticket sales, former doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam champion Bhupathi said: "Honestly, I don't know, because I just landed here. I guess we will have a better idea tomorrow.
"But we saw last year that the fans (here) enjoyed the format.
"Last year, the final was in Singapore, and the tournament ended on a high with the Slammers winning it. Hopefully, the fans will return."
Tickets are available online at www.sportshubtix.sg, with three-day passes starting from $117 and matchday tickets from $42.