Davis Cupper and London Olympian Vishnu Vardhan was the highest bid player at Rs 1,90,000 when 80 players went under the hammer for the inaugural edition of the Maharashtra Tennis League (MTL) which was held here on Thursday.
Vardhan was bought for Rs 1,90,000 by Accurate Aces, one of the five teams. Vardhan's Davis Cup teammates, Sanam Singh and Saketh Myneni were the second most expensive players; the duo was snapped up for Rs 1,65,000 respectively.
Singh was bought by Mumbai Blasters while Myneni went to the Baseline Bombers. Prerna Bhambri was the most expensive women's player as she was bought for Rs 100,000. Bhambri will be part of the Sharp Smashers.
However, the auction got off to an ominous start. The first player to go under the hammer Divij Sharan, winner of ATP Challenger events in Bangkok and Korea, went unsold in the first round of auctions. Sharan ranked No.4 in the national doubles rankings was sold for Rs 90,000 in the third round of bidding after his base price was lowered from Rs 100,000 to Rs 50,000.
Yuki Bhambri, India's top-ranked singles player, had pulled out of the event citing personal reasons. Among the women, higher ranked players like Kyra Shroff and Natasha Palha found no takers in two rounds of bidding while relative newcomers like 19-year-old Shramada Balu and 20-year-old Treta Bhattacharya were bought at the first time of asking. Of the 80 players who were put up for auction, 50 remained unsold as the teams largely focused on filling up the slots of six mandatory players.
The five-team edition of the league will be a six-day affair starting on January 14 and will conclude on January 19. Each team will play six games against each opponent. The winner of a match will be decided on number of games won.
This novel rule was a decisive factor in many a team owner's decisions during the auction. Dhawal Shah, one of the owners of the Accurate Aces, said that the franchise went for players who had a history of stretching matches. "We need people who can match the best and take a fair number of games off them. We went for players who even if they lose, will lose matches say 6-4 or even 7-5. We have Vishnu (Vardhan) who can win us matches on his own but the others need to rally around