MANILA, Philippines – Just what makes the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) special?
That’s probably a question only a student of the game, a manager and a team owner could answer.
“As a fan, you get to see 30 top players in three days. [When] you get to go to a Grand Slam [event]g you get to see guys who are lower ranked,” said businessman and tennis patron Jean-Henri Lhuillier.
Lhuillier, one of the Philippine Mavericks’ owners, also said that seeing world-class athletes compete under one roof is one of the many unique experiences offered by the IPTL.
“Here, you get to see top-ranked players in three days, in a shorter format,” he said. “So they know they gotta do points quickly and make sure that they’re effective with their shots.”
“The closed environment and top-ranking players in the three days is what makes it different,” Lhuillier added.
Lhuiller who considers tennis as his first love, also noted that it’s not only the fans that the IPTL pampers.
“The league’s an ‘eye-opener’ not only for the fans, but also for the players,” he said. “They actually got to know each other in three weeks – both on the court and on a social level.”
And he should know. After all, he also moonlights as the all-star squad’s manager.
“It’s a great experience for me, being around these top world-class athletes,” he said.
But the best part of the whole escapade? Sitting in front row to enjoy the action and being friends with the players.
“For me, [the best thing] is being able to sit down on the bench with the team and listening what strategies they had and devising with each other,” Lhuillier continued.
vPhilippine Mavericks manager Jean-Henri Lhuillier at yesterday’s press conference announcing Season 2 of the International Premier Tennis League at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. gJonathan Asuncion/Philstar.com v”I like all of them. But I have strong affinity to Treat Hueyg He’s not only a good friend of mine but I also enjoy being with him,” he added.
And it’s not only the Filipino-American Huey’s company that the Lhuillier enjoys.
“Jo Tsonga is great to hang out with,” he said. “He’s a real team player. I think he’s a pillar for the [Mavericks], in terms of his capability and his character. They are the two guys whom I am more close to.”
Even with a name tied to a family business, Lhuillier was able to carve out an identity as a sports patron. He currently heads the Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines and is still the top patron of the Philippine’s contingent for the Davis Cup. He also has an involvement with the country’s national softball teams.
Asked if it’s there’s any difference between managing locals and top-tier foreign athletes, Lhuillier simply said “I have no issues.”
“It’s different in the context that these athletes are individual athletes – who compete on their own throughout the year. But in terms of managing people, handling a team situation, it’s all the same,” he explained.
“You just have to make sure there’s a goal in mind and everybody’s supportive. My role as a team manager is to make sure that those two aspects remain steady.”
Asked about the Mavericks’ chances in this year’s IPTL, Lhuillier said he is confident that the Mark Philippoussis-captained squad will have a fighting chance to shoot for the top honors.
“We’ve got a solid coreg we’re looking at a great season ahead of us. I still feel that the Indian Aces is the team to beat, especially after adding (Rafael) Nadal,” he said.
Lhuillier, seemingly unfazed by Nadal’s inclusion to a rival team, also talked about latest Maverick – superstar Serena Williams.
“We’ve got a well-rounded teamg We should be able to compete for the championship, with Williams leading us,” he said. “Serena adds depth to the team.”
The IPTL begins on Dec. in Japan and will move to Manila for its second leg on December 6-8.