On first day of the Singapore leg of International Premier Tennis League at Singapore, Micromax Indian Aces comprehensively beat the Musafir.com UAE Royals 30-11 but they lost the other two matches over the next two days. But with both losses having narrow margins, Indian Aces continue to occupy the top spot on the league table with 20 points, followed by UAE Royals and Manila Mavericks with 17 points each. Singapore Slammers are fourth with 14 points. With Delhi and Dubai legs still remaining, anything can happen. IPTL boss Mahesh Bhupathi is a happy man as the uniquely designed league format has been working well. Crowds, players and television viewers have found the fast-paced innovative version of tennis as pretty entertaining. The players and officials will now be flying to Delhi for the third leg from December 6 at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in India’s capital, where hopefully, Roger Federer will join the Indian Aces. In addition, Noval Djokovic is also expected to arrive and represent UAE Royals. The critics, who had dubbed the four-Asian-city tournament as a meaningless exercise, have been made to chew their words in the face of a great response from spectators and media. Bhupathi is already thinking of adding two more cities from next year and that would mean another two bunches of celebrity tennis players, who could not make it to the IPTL this year. Just as in cricket’s T20 games, the IPTL league matches have also been peppered with DJ’s and dancing women, dressed in colorful costumes in between the rests. That has added jest to the show of the celebrities, playing their hearts out to win the matches. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are crowd pullers anywhere but the IPTL has also featured Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils and Marin Cilic, among several others. After all, US $ 1 million prize assigned for league winners with appearance bonus money is not exactly a loose change.
On Day 1 at Singapore, the first match involved Indian Aces and UAE Royals. Indian Aces won all their sets, beginning with women’s singles between Ana Ivanovic and Kristina Mladenovic. It was an easy 6-2 victory for Ivanovic. In the mixed doubles set, however, Sania Mirza/Rohan Bopanna needed a shoot-out before winning at 6-5. In men’s singles, Monfils thrashed Cilic 6-1 and in men’s legends singles; Aces’ Santoro first played Ivanisevic, who left mid-set due to injury but the Croat’s replacement, Zimonjic also couldn’t hold against Santoro, who won at 6-2. The last set was men’s doubles, where Bopanna/Monfils defeated Cilic and Zimonjic 6-1. In the second match, DBS Singapore Slammers played against Manila Mavericks. Except Serena Williams’s 6-5 shoot-out victory over Kirsten Flipkens, the Slammers lost all their sets. In men’s legend set, Andre Agassi lost 3-6 against Mark Philippoussis; Hewitt/Berdych lost 4-6 against Treat Huey/Tsonga; Berdych lost 5-6 to Tsonga and Kyrgios/Serena lost the mixed doubles 3-6 to Nestor/Flipkens. In the end, Mavericks defeated Slammers 29-21.
In Wednesday’s first match, UAE Royals beat Manila Mavericks 26-21 beginning with men’s legend’s singles in which Mavericks’ Mark Philippoussis edged out Goran Ivanisevic in a shootout. Mavericks’ only other victory was in men’s doubles, where Tsonga/Huey defeated Cilic/Zimonjic 6-3. Royals won the men’s singles with Cilic defeating Tsonga 6-4; mixed doubles in which Zimonjic/ Mladenovic beat Nestor/Flipkens 6-1 and women’s singles, where Mladenovic beat Flipkens 6-4. In the second match later, Singapore Slammers scored their first IPTL triumph by beating the hitherto unbeaten Indian Aces 24-23. World no.1 Serena Williams gave the hosts a great start with a 6-4 victory after being down 1-3. The crowds cheered lustily as Serena fought back to win against the world no.5. In the next set, Slammers’ mixed pair of Williams/Bruno Soares lost 3-6 against Aces’ Mirza/Bopanna and in the Men’s legends singles, Andre Agassi lost 2-6 against Fabrice Santoro. As the Slammers trailed 11-16, Czech icon Tomas Berdych changed the complex of the match. He beat Gael Monfils 6-2 in men’s singles and when Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios won the shoot-out 6-5 against Monfils/Rohan Bopanna, the contest ended 23-23. Berdych then came out for a 7-minute super shoot-out against Gael Monfils and led the Slammers to their maiden victory.
In the first match on December 4, Indian Aces lost again, when Manila Mavericks beat them 25-20. Beginning with men’s legends set, in which Slammers’ Philippoussis won against Cedic Pioline 6-4; Indian Aces also lost mixed doubles and men’s doubles sets with an identical 6-2 margin. Though Ana Ivanovic won women’s singles 6-2 against Flipkens, Monfils shoot out win against Tsonga was not enough to prevent their defeat by Mavericks. In the second match, Singapore Slammers defeated UAE Royals with great performances from Serena Williams and Tomas Berdych. The two players won all the matches in which they featured and though the Slammers lost mens’ doubles and men’s legends sets, they could still eke out a 27-25 victory over UAE Royals.
The second leg showed the fight-back from Singapore Slammers and though Indian Aces are still the league leaders, they are not invincible. When Federer and Djokovic join at Delhi and Dubai, it could be a different ball game.