Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova of Manila Maverickcs team signs an autograph for a fan on a large tennis ball after beating Kristina Mladenovic of the UAE Royals team in their women's singles tennis match at the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) competition in Manila November 28, 2014. Reuters

The first leg of the inaugural International Premiere Tennis League (IPTL) kicked off in the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 28 2014 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Metro Manila. The event was met with high anticipation and hoards of excited fans but it almost started out with a big disaster. Fans were kept waiting for hours as new ticketing policies produced chaos at the gates.

Tickets were presold months before the event and hundreds of fans had already secured their three-day passes for Nov. 28-30. Several hundred more fans had purchased their tickets online and were instructed to claim their tickets at the ticket booths at the venue. There were also some stragglers who had come to the event with the intention of buying tickets on-site.

Upon arrival at the venue, ticket holders were turned away from the entrance gates and were told that they would need to secure electronic access cards to gain access into the arena. To do this, existing tickets must be exchanged for the access card in the same ticket booths where new tickets were being sold and online tickets were being claimed. Needless to say, lack of coordination and crowd management led to complete chaos as lines started to form in all eight available window. Nobody knew which lines were for new ticket buyers or which lines were for the access card ticket exchange.

Some people had been standing in queue for over two hours when the clock struck 4 and the anxiety level grew. Nobody wanted to miss any of the games which some people had paid over a month's salary for.

The matches are scheduled to be played in two sessions everyday for three days. The opening session starts at 4:00 pm and the second session starts at 7:30 pm. With each team playing five sets and with each set having a different set of players on court, missing one set would mean missing the opportunity to watch some players for the day.

With tension rising, some fans who had been left standing in queue for hours took it upon themselves to organise the lines to get things moving faster. However, with hundreds still in queue after the first serve was made, The event management and the venue made the decision to allow ticket holders to enter without the need to secure electronic access cards. The crowd was slowly funnelled into the stadium manually by gate ushers.

The ticket booths were then decongested enough to be able to accommodate the new buyers as well as online voucher holders who were picking up their tickets. The place eventually started to fill up with most of the fans still able to enter within the first two sets.

Despite having several irate fans at the gate before the start of the event, the event went ahead as planned and the fans that had waited for hours were treated to a wonderful display of world-class tennis. Tennis superstars Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic were the clear crowd favourites but much appreciation was shown to all of the participating players. The first day saw matches between the Micromax Indian Aces and the DBS Singapore Slammers for the afternoon session and hosts Manila Mavericks took on the UAE Royals in the evening session.

First day results:

UAE Royals 29-24 Manila Mavericks

Micromax Indian Aces 26-16 DBS Singapore Slammers