ORGANIZERS have yet to release the official numbers regarding the turnout, but Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi said the Philippine stop of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) was so good it may be hard to top it.
“Unfortunately, the bar has been set very high in Manila. It’s going to be hard to beat,” Bhupati said.
The IPTL is now set to hold the Singapore leg before moving to New Delhi and Dubai.
Bhupathi declared the turnout for the Manila leg was "pretty good" especially since there was initial concern because tickets were priced as high as P50,000.
The three-day event saw tennis stars Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, and Ana Ivanovic playing in front of good-sized crowds.
[See Serena Williams surprised by 'amazing reception' from Pinoy fans in IPTL Manila stop]
Even Murray acknowledged the Filipino tennis fans and their passion for the sport at the end of the IPTL Manila leg.
“They are great fans. They just don’t have the opportunity to watch us in the tour,” Murray said.
Bhupathi, who completed a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles by winning titles at the Australian and French Opens, Wimbledon, and US Open, said he wasn’t surprised at all with the turnout of the Filipino crowd because he knew there have always been huge tennis fans in the Philippines.
“Tennis is one of the biggest global sports there is. It is played in over 195 countries so these players are superstars across the world. It’s a huge sport and it’s got a huge following here,” Bhupati told reporters.
[See Philippines captivates Sharapova: 'It's an amazing country with beautiful people']
Bhupati stressed he never doubted the event would be a success even as talks circulated about the ATP and WTA stars not playing matches or not arriving at all.
“I was at a lunch and somebody told me that they have been talking about the IPTL for a while and nobody really believed that these stars will show up in Manila. So that’s out of the window now,” said Bhupathi.
Unlike in the ATP and WTA Tour, the IPTL was played under a format somehow similar to the Davis Cup but under different rules where cumulative points were tallied to determine the team winner.
The different format, apparently, was welcomed by Filipinos.
Bhupathi also noted one proof of success of the event is the level of play, which rose as the crowd became more involved in the matches.
“Tennis players are, in some form, entertainers and they want to play in packed stands. The crowd was electrifying.
“I’ve played with Treat (Huey) many times and I haven’t seen him play like that and it’s because of the crowd. He played with 10,000 people screaming. It takes your tennis to the next level and that is exactly why the players enjoyed it so much,” said Bhupati.