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 him and win as many games as possible." he said.
Owner of the Mumbai Blasters, Altaf Vahanavati said that the franchise had zeroed in on certain players before the auction and their objective was clear. "We will be playing two doubles matches so we concentrated on getting good doubles players. Purav Raja is one of the best doubles players in India and we also got Eetee Maheta, who is a bright prospect in women's doubles. Also we are a franchise from Mumbai so we had to go for some local connect." he said.
Rushmi Chakravarthy who represented India at the Olympics in London, partnering Sania Mirza in the women's doubles was left unsold. Chakravarthy found no takers as team owners opted for youth over experience. Also Chakravarthy was only available in category A with a minimum base price of Rs 75,000, and that seemed to have served as a deterrent to franchises.
Who went where
Accurate Aces: Vishnu Vardhan (190000), Kyra Shroff (54000)
Baseline Bombers: Saketh Myneni (165000), Arjun Kadhe (100000)
Dazzling Deuces: Mohit Mayur (100000), Divij Sharan (90000), Ankit Raina 85000
Mumbai Blasters: Sanam Singh (165000), Purav Raja (100000), Rutuja Bhosle (95000)
Sharp Smashers: VM Ranjeet (105000), Prerna Bhambri (100000), Vijayant Malik (120000)
*Figures in brackets indicate price sold at in Indian rupees