NEW DELHI (TIP): Test captain Virat Kohli is becoming quite the entrepreneur when it comes to sports leagues. After his maiden venture in partnering with the Indian Soccer League (ISL) franchise FC Goa last year, Kohli has now taken a dip in the tennis pool, becoming a co-owner of the UAE Royals team in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).
The skipper joins two other owners – Neelesh Bhatnagar and Sachin Gadoya – in ownership of the Royals. The team will feature 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer this season along with 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, Ana Ivanovic, Daniel Nestor, Kristina Mladenovic and Tomas Berdych.
“Kohli is a big tennis fan, especially of Federer. He’s made some investments in sporting ventures like the ISL franchise FC Goa. The owners of UAE Royals got in touch with him and he was excited to come on board,” IPTL founder and managing director Mahesh Bhupathi told TOI from Dubai on Thursday.
Kohli has followed Federer for some time now, flying down to London earlier this year to see the Swiss Ace in action at Wimbledon. “I am a huge fan of Federer and with him joining the Royals, my decision to be on board with the team was firm. The Royals feature some of tennis’ greatest players and I am confident about the prospects of the team in the IPTL,” Kohli said.
Joining Kohli in the franchise will be cricket team director Ravi Shastri. “The owners have also brought on Shastri as a mentor-cum-advisor. He is close to Kohli and has been working with the youngsters in the Indian team,” Bhupathi said.
The UAE leg of the league will be held from December 14- 16 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium. Asked how many rounds that the duo will attend, Bhupathi said: “It’s still not clear how many rounds they’ll be able to attend. They will be here in Dubai for the Royals’ matches for sure. Kohli has expressed the desire to hit a few balls with Federer as well, so that will be something to look forward to.”
The Royals team features Ivanisevic but his ward and defending US Open champion Marin Cilic is missing from the roster this season. Bhupathi, however, said negotiations are still on with some of the players. “Cilic was part of the Royals but we haven’t been able to finalise him as yet. Talks are still on with Cilic as well as a few other players. We’ll have more clarity once some of the contracts are finalized,” the IPTL managing director said.
Meanwhile, the New Delhi leg will be held between December 10 and 12 and ticket sales are already promising.