In advance of the fifth season of the Tennis Premier League (TPL), the eight franchises came to light with the auction after putting together strong lineups that included a blend of intriguing talent from around the world and Indian players. The event was held at the Sahara Star Hotel in Mumbai.
Sumit Nagal, the current All-India Tennis Association (AITA) top-ranked men’s singles player, was welcomed into the competition as the marquee player prior to the fifth TPL season and was also the most expensive pick at the auction. Amidst strong competition from rival teams for India’s best tennis player’s contract, he was signed by the Ramku Patgir-owned Gujarat Panthers for INR 18.5 lakhs.
Moving on, Bengaluru SG Mavericks were quick to strengthen their squad for the forthcoming season as they onboarded Arina Rodionova for INR 17.1 lakhs. Bengal Wizards, the TPL’s newest team, faced heavy competition from Gujarat to gain the services of Maria Timofeeva for INR 15.5 lakhs. Dennis Novak, currently the top-ranked player in Austria for men’s singles, was roped in by Delhi Binny’s Brigade for INR 15.2 lakhs.
In the auction, the defending champion Hyderabad Strikers also displayed excellent judgment by selecting Ellen Perez for INR 14 lakhs. Similarly, Ernest Gulbis was signed up by Mumbai Leon Army for INR 14 lakhs.
TPL, Co-founder Kunal Thakkur, said, “We are overwhelmed with the response received for the auction and sincerely thank all the team owners, ambassadors, and the academy heads for coming together to make this event such an emphatic success. The Gujarat Panthers’ historic INR 18.5 lakh bid for Sumit Nagal, making him the most expensive Indian player ever, is a testimony to the heights Tennis Premier League has achieved over the four seasons and the tremendous potential it holds. The auction sets a precedent for a remarkable fifth season and we are eager to see the action unfold soon.”
Mrunal Jain, Co-founder of TPL, added, “The exhilarating bidding wars and seeing the most expensive player picks in their respective categories make this auction a truly memorable one. With the addition of some of the country’s best tennis players, we look forward to delivering another massive season of Tennis Premier League and are confident of becoming synonymous with the sport in India.”
At the event, SportsMint Media had the honour of speaking to Mr Nadan Bal, Team Mentor, Pune Jaguars, in which we asked him a question on the business front.
- How will the team leverage Sonali Bendre’s fan following to gather eyeballs for your team and for the competition overall?
“First of all, it’s not just Sonali; we are Pune Jaguars; we are a home team. Sonali inclusion is like ‘Sone Pe Suhaga’. With her, there’s going to be a million males coming in, for sure. I don’t know about females, but there’s going to be a million males that will get in to watch, which is what happened last year. Being a home team, we have Mr. Puneet Balan, our owner, who I’m sure will be looking at bringing in his own people to watch the matches. He actually has his own fan following simply on the basis of the fact that he actually owns eight or nine other teams in other leagues. It’s a sort of captive audience for him to get people to come and watch and play. So we are expecting a full home support. Honestly speaking, somebody like her, not because they are say handsome or beautiful or whatever, they’re icons because of what they’ve achieved and people come for that. They don’t come for the outer beauty, they come to see somebody who’s an icon to India and that’s where I think we’ll get people to come and watch.”
Sonali Bendre’s participation would undoubtedly be the cherry on the cake for Pune Jaguars who are also the favourites. Bendre has 4.4 million Instagram followers, and her weekly appearances on reality programs demonstrate how eye-catching she is, which may undoubtedly encourage her fans to tune in to catch the live action from TPL.
In collaboration with the AITA and Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA), the TPL is all set to be underway at the sublime Balewadi Stadium in Pune. The progressive tennis competition will take place between December 12 – 17, 2023.