Roger Federer and Serena Williams have pulled out of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) ahead of the tournament’s Indian leg this weekend due to economic “uncertainty”, organisers said on Tuesday (December 6).
India has been gripped by a cash crunch after the government withdrew high denomination notes from circulation last month.
“We have had challenges this year, and we were hoping to get past them,” Mahesh Bhupathi, the Asia-based mixed team tennis league’s founder and director, said.
“With the current economic climate in India and the uncertainty of spending money, I reached out to both Roger and Serena to explain the situation.
“They have both been very supportive of the IPTL for the first two seasons and we look forward to bringing them back in future years.”
Federer was scheduled to make his comeback at the event in Hyderabad from December 9-11. The 35-year-old has not played since July due to knee problems.
Indian star Somdev Devvarman, admitted the news was disappointing but insisted the tournament will still be a success.
He said: “Yes, it’s a huge blow to IPTL but don’t forget what has been done in the last two years. People tend to forget the good work. Federer, Rafa (Nadal) and (Novak) Djokovic have come to India and played.
“The top names may be missing but the IPTL has 26 other world-class players coming to Hyderabad. We have a long-term plan and we still have world-class players out there.
“Tomas Berdych, Feliciano Lopez, Nick Kyrgios, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza are all quality players.”
Asked how demonetisation has affected the league and if the players needed to be paid in cash, Devvarman explained that alone was not the problem.
“Paying the players is not the issue. But if revenues do not support most of the payments, both the team owners and league get into a large hole which we want to avoid,” he said.
Meanwhile, a source close to the owners revealed they had difficulty in promoting the league due to the prevailing economic situation in the country.
“It’s bound to have some impact. The sponsors and the owners are going to be wary. Everything around is so unstable and uncertain,” the source said.