December isn’t usually thought of as a tennis month in the world of sports as the seasons for the WTA and ATP are over. However, there is a competitive tennis league that has run in recent years known as the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). The league features teams of tennis players from the ATP, the WTA, and legends tours (i.e.,. retired players). The matches are unlike anything the ATP or WTA does as they feature numerous players ‘tagging’ in and ‘tagging’ out with the end and start of each individual set.
The team that is considered the favorite to win the league this season is known as the Singapore Slammers. Paddy Power sportsbook make the Slammers 3 to 2 to claim the title, one that will be settled on December 11th. Those odds are the shortest of any team with any sportsbook.
Serena Williams is the headliner as the World No. 2 returns to competitive tennis for her first match since the 2016 US Open semifinals. The former World No. 1 is joined by fellow WTA player Kiki Bertens. The Dutch national can be tough as nails, however, she still struggles with consistency at times. But to her credit, Bertens made the semifinals of the French Open in 2016 and finished with a ranking of 22nd in the world. She’ll turn 25 years old over the course of the tournament and could be a strong contributor in the event.
The two current ATP players on the Slammers are Nick Kyrgios and Marcos Baghdatis. The former will be looking to fade the negative headlines surrounding his name from what happened in Shanghai earlier this year. Tennis fans will recall that Kyrgios appeared uninterested in a match that he contested at the Masters Series 1000 event. Shortly thereafter he was suspended from the tour for tanking it on court. In an event that might not be taken too seriously if anyone promises to put all of his/her effort into the IPTL, I think that it would be Kyrgios precisely because he needs to improve his reputation.
The doubles specialist on the Slammers is Marcelo Melo. He’ll have to team with either Williams or Bertens for the mixed-doubled sets. Meanwhile, the team is rounded out with legends Carlos Moya and Rainer Schuettler. Moya is a former No. 1 from his ATP days, however, it’s never really clear what legends players are going to do in their matches. Their game-play isn’t in the news enough to really get a vibe for how they are going to play.
When one looks at the match details at the homepage for the IPTL, there’s good reason to be skeptical of the Slammers as the betting favorites in my opinion. Serena Williams is their best player, but she won’t actually contest the first trio of matches to be played in Japan between December 2nd and 4th. Secondly, she’s not in all the matches for the final weekend in India either, the same weekend the final will actually be played.
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A careful look at the scheduled match details shows that she is expected to be part of the event in India on December 9th, but not December 10th. To me, that suggests that she has other commitments and I don’t expect her to be back for the final on December 11th. She’s only consistently listed in the match details for a trio of matches in Singapore, and her efforts could very well help her team get to the final. However, if she’s not there to help them cross the finish line, then don’t think the Slammers can be considered favorites.