On Friday, the inaugural International Premier Tennis League had a roaring start with the participation of past and present tennis celebrities. On the first two days, Micromax Indian Aces and UAE Royals won their matches in a format that is unique to the league. The other two teams are; DBS Singapore Slammers and Manila Mavericks. World’s best known tennis stars are part of these teams but being professionals, they don’t seem to be taking the matches lightly as evidenced by the results over the last two days. The match consists of 5 sets and each set is played normally over 6 games with a 5 minute shoot-out at 5-all. The 5 sets feature men’s singles, women’s singles, mixed doubles, men’s doubles and men’s legends singles. Every game one counts as one point for the team. The order of play is decided by home team and the umpire must get the team line-up 45 minutes before the match starts. The winner is the team that wins the most games, accumulated from all five sets. If a match is tied after five sets, super shoot-out determines the match winner. The winning team collects 4 points and for losers; winning more than 20 games counts 2 points; more than 10 games 1 point and less than 10 games, 0 point.
On Friday November 28, Micromax Indian Aces beat DBS Singapore by an impressive margin of 26 games to 16 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Indian Aces’ player-cum-coach Fabrice Santoro won the toss and elected to serve. The league began with its first match being mixed doubles, where Indian Aces’ Rohan Bopanna/Sania Mirza played against Singapore Slammers’ Bruno Soares/Daniela Hantuchova. The pairs traded breaks of serve at the start but Bopana and Mirza played cleverly to take the set 6-4. The next set was the men’s legends between Fabrice Santoro against Slammers Patrick Rafter and it went to shoot-out at 5-5 but Santoro emerged the winner in the end. In men’s doubles, Indian Aces’ Rohan Bopanna paired with Gael Monfils but they lost 2-6 to Singapore Slammers pair of Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios. In the women’s singles next, Aces’ star Ana Ivanovic handed a 6-0 drubbing to Slammers’ Daniela Hantuchova and in the last set featuring Indian Aces’ Gael Monfils and Slammers’ Lleyton Hewitt, Monfils walked away a 6-1 winner.
In the other match on Friday, UAE Royals won 29-24 against the home team Manila Mavericks in a closely fought encounter. The men’s legend set was the first between UAE Royal’s Goran Ivanisevic and Mavericks’ Carlos Moya. The set went in favor of Ivanisevic 6-5. In the men’s doubles, Royal’s pair of Marin Cilic and Nenad Zimonjic cruised to a 6-4 victory over Mavericks’ Treat Huey and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. In mixed doubles, the home team lost again 4-6, when Royals duo of Kristina Mladenovic and Nenad Zimonjic overpowered Mavericks’ Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray. The only victory for the Manila Mavericks was delivered by Maria Sharapova, who beat Kristina Mladenovic in a shootout. The last set was another shoot-out in which Marin Cilic outlasted Andy Murray.
On Saturday November 29, UAE Royal beat Singapore Slammers 28-22. The match began with Royal’s Marin Cilic beating Slammers’ Tomas Berdych 6-4 in the men’s singles. To an extent, the Slammers recovered in men’s doubles with Berdych and Kyrgios winning against Cilic and Nenad Zimonjic after a shootout. In women’s singles, Kristina Mladenovic defeated Daniela Hantuchova, 6-1. However, Hantuchova partnered with Kyrgios to win the mixed doubles set 6-5 against Mladenovic and Zimonjic. In the legends match, Goran Ivanisevic defeated Pat Rafter in another shoot-out.
The other match on Saturday was played between Indian Aces and Manila Mavericks with another clear 24-15 victory for the Aces. Santoro began the proceedings with a thumping 6-1 win over Daniel Nestor and this set was followed by men’s doubles. In a powerful display, Mavricks pair of Treat Huey and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga handed a 6-0 defeat to Aces’ Rohan Bopanna and Gael Monfils. In the men’s singles next, Andy Murray easily beat Gael Monfils 6-4. The Indian Aces, however came back strongly in the last two sets of the day. In the first, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza defeated Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova 6-1; while in the last set, Ana Ivanovic defeated Sharapova 6-3 to make it two victories in two days for the Indian Aces.
The star-studded International Premier Tennis League got an encouraging response, going by the crowds on the first two days. In Asia, top tennis stars rarely make their appearance and therefore despite the unusual format, stands were full. The cheering for the stars during matches made the atmosphere exciting. Ana Ivanovic of Micromax Indian Aces said that she found the people amazing and despite the fun format, the team spirit was great. After Manila, the teams will travel to Singapore for similar matches during December 2-4, before reaching Delhi, where they play during December 6-8. In the concluding leg of the IPTL, teams will arrive in Dubai to play the last sets during December 11-13.
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