5 most exciting match-ups involving the UAE Royals players at the 2015 IPTL
With some of the biggest names from the tennis world in the draft, the much-anticipated second season of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) has quite a few enthralling matches lined up. The Mahesh Bhupathi-founded league, which will kick off next week, gives a unique opportunity to the countless tennis fans in Asia to get a taste of the biggest modern rivalries. Last year’s runners-up UAE Royals have one of the strongest squads in the league, with Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic, Ana Ivanovic, Kristina Mladenovic, Goran Ivanisevic and Daniel Nestor all raring to go. (For tickets to the UAE Royals matches, click here).But the players have some tough rivals to counter before they can come close to clinching the title. Here are some of the most exciting match-ups involving the UAE Royals players that will likely set the IPTL on fire:
#5 Goran Ivansevic vs Marat Safin
The 2015 IPTL landed a major coup by getting hold of former World No. 1 Marat Safin, who will turn up for the Japan Warriors. One of the hardest hitters of the ball off both wings, the mercurial Russian was famous for his on-court outbursts and his innumerable racquet smashes. Surely, the two-time Slam champion is one of the biggest attractions of this year’s IPTL.
When he squares off against UAE Royals’ own maverick Goran Ivanisevic in the legends’ match, sparks are sure to fly! It will be a dazzling display of Ivanisevic’s service bombs versus Safin’s pacy returns. With these two iconic players being tied at one win apiece in their head-to-head record, neither of them will carry a distinct edge into the match.
Theirs is an intriguing clash which is likely to happen twice over the course of the 2015 IPTL – at Kobe and at Dubai. Twice the drama, and surely double the fun?
#4 Ana Ivanovic vs Maria Sharapova
Tennis enthusiasts in Kobe will get to see two of the most popular players on the WTA Tour squaring off against each other. The two glam girls of the modern women’s game, both former World No. 1s – Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic – are also two of the biggest fighters on the tour, and their match-up is guaranteed to generate plenty of heat.
Interestingly, the Russian and the Serbian haven't met each other after their dramatic three-setter in the Brisbane final back in January. It is finally the IPTL which is bringing them back together on the court again.
Five-time Major champion Sharapova’s 2015 season was marred by injury but the Russian had a confidence-boosting run towards the end of the season at the WTA Finals and the Fed Cup. Five wins out of six matches at those two tournaments clearly underlined that the quintessential warrior Sharapova is back to her best.
That might be ominous for the former French Open champion Ivanovic who has a 4-10 head-to-head record against the World No. 4. But the vibrant IPTL atmosphere and the fan chants happen to bring out the best from the Serb.
The World No. 16, who has one of the smoothest forehands on tour today, was one of the standout players last year and even prevailed over Sharapova when they met. She will look for an encoure of that performance when they meet this year in Kobe.
#3 Tomas Berdych vs Kei Nishikori
Japan Warriors’ Kei Nishikori is making his debut in the pan-Asian league this year. With a fifth team being added to the IPTL roster in the second season, tennis enthusiasts in Kobe will be thrilled to see their No. 1 player battling it out with the very best in the world.
World No. 6 Tomas Berdych, who left the Singapore Slammers to join the UAE Royals in 2015, is one of those players who can give the Japanese a run for his money. While Nishikori has triumphed in four of their five face-offs, three out of those five meetings have gone the distance.
Nishikori’s speedy footwork and blistering backhand pitted against Berdych’s mammoth serve and fierce groundstrokes make this a potentially mesmerizing watch. Even their last encounter went the distance as the World No. 8 edged past the Czech in an exciting three-set affair at the World Tour Finals.
Berdych might be sniffing at some revenge after that. Can there be any better place to do it than at Nishikori’s home in Japan? After Singapore finished at the bottom of the table last year, the Czech will be doubly determined to carry his current team – the UAE Royals – to the top.
#2 Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic
After seeing the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and World No. 3 Roger Federer wield their magic in as many as eight meetings this season, tennis lovers will get a chance to see them squaring off against each other again at the IPTL. During Djokovic’s superlative 2015 season, in which he amassed 11 titles, the Swiss maestro was the only player who could stop the charge of the rampaging Serb three times.
Even in their last tournament at the World Tour Finals, Federer did manage to topple the 10-time Major champion after having lost two of the biggest finals this year – at Wimbledon and the US Open. It was a terrific serving display from the Swiss which lit up the O2 Arena during their round robin clash, but Djokovic settled the scores soon after and got the better of his long-time rival to lay his hands on his fifth World Tour Finals trophy.
With Federer having confirmed his participation at three legs of the IPTL this year, the Singapore Indoor Stadium looks all set to witness the rekindling of the classic rivalry and some sublime shot-making from these two tennis icons.
Their enjoyable IPTL face-off in New Delhi last year is still etched in the minds of diehard fans. Djokovic then represented the UAE Royals while Federer turned up for the Indian Aces. One year on, it is Federer who will now don the Royals outfit while the Serb has moved on to the Singapore Slammers.
But no matter which team they represent, these two players, who are locked at 22-22 in their head-to-head record, are sure to produce fireworks when they meet!
#1 Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal
This is easily one of the best rivalries of the modern game, if not the biggest. The two stalwarts with opposite playing styles and admirable personalities have drawn in millions of fans worldwide over the last decade. Today’s younger generation has grown up watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, which is why a 'Fedal’ match always evokes the deepest emotions.
Naturally, even today, sports lovers eagerly wait for a chance to relish a clash between the Swiss and the Spaniard, who combine for a total of 31 singles Grand Slam titles. They last met at the Swiss Indoors final in October this year, which was a much-anticipated match since it came after a gap of 21 long months. And the two legends once again served up a delectable tennis feast for the fans to enjoy at Basel.
Even though Nadal has dominated their rivalry over the years, it was Federer who succeeded in registering his first victory over his nemesis since 2012, in a thrilling three-setter. And now, thanks to the IPTL, tennis aficionados can once again revel in the beauty of a Federer vs Nadal clash when the UAE Royals and the Indian Aces meet in New Delhi.
It has not been a memorable 2015 for IPTL debutant Nadal, but if his fall season performances are anything to go by, he could well put in a resurgent showing in 2016. Expect a cracker of a battle in Delhi, as the vicious lefty forehands from the Spaniard and the gorgeous net play from the Swiss crash into each other once again.