5 things the UAE Royals can do to get back to the top of the table
It was a rousing start for the 2014 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) runners-up UAE Royals at Kobe, where they reigned supreme on top of the Team Standings. With a flawless record of two wins out of two matches, they looked set to extend their lead when the league moved to Manila.However, much to the dismay of the Royals members, their Manila stay did not prove to be memorable as they collapsed to two defeats out of three matches. With the IPTL party arriving in New Delhi, Goran Ivanisevic’s men will look to become invincible once again as they aim to reclaim the top spot.(For tickets to UAE Royals matches, click here).Here are five things that are essential for the Royals to get back to the No. 1 position:
#1 Roger Federers inspiring leadership
Roger Federer is the messiah who can save the UAE Royals from further misery. With the arrival of the Swiss maestro, the 2014 IPTL runners-up will be emboldened and will look to be a force to reckon with once again.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion’s presence itself is an asset. Having him in the side can motivate other members to come up with their very best, much like how he spearheaded the eventual champions Indian Aces’ challenge last year.
With the addition of Federer, not only will the Royals look menacing in men’s singles, but the former World No. 1 can also play his part in doubles. Federer regaled the Delhi crowd last year with his efficient volleys alongside Sania Mirza.
The 2008 Olympic men’s doubles gold medallist might turn up for all the three sets – men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles, making his fans go triple wild with enthusiasm!
#2 Daniel Nestor needs to spruce up his net skills
The Royals were banking on the legendary Canadian and former World No. 1 Daniel Nestor’s tremendous experience in doubles to take them through both the men’s and mixed doubles sets. With his illustrious resume that consists of 12 Grand Slam titles, the southpaw was always an enviable choice for any IPTL team.
But lately, Nestor has been a little off the mark. Plenty of times in the Manila leg the 43-year-old dumped easy volleys into the net and looked a little helpless on the court. Needless to say, that contributed to the Dubai side’s two losses during their Philippines sojourn.
Tomas Berdych – who is more prominent in singles – being his men’s doubles partner did not help Nestor’s cause. But the Canadian can hope to get a bit more support once Federer joins. The Swiss’ reflexes and smart volleys can aid in sharing Nestor’s load, and the Dubai side will look a more compact team then.
#3 Ivanovic needs to fire her forehand with conviction
Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic has a habit of being consumed by sudden nervousness during her matches. The Serb has worked a lot on keeping herself calm and steady and the results have been positive in recent times.
But there are still phases when she cannot avert it completely. Unfortunately for the former top-ranked player, Ivanovic did fall prey to this undesirable trait of hers in Manila and her usually reliable forehand refused to fire.
She looked a pale shadow of herself against the likes of Serena Williams and Samantha Stosur and even had to be substituted by her younger teammate, Kristina Mladenovic. Certainly, Ivanovic would not want a repeat of that.
Much to her relief, the Serb did find her lost spark against Singapore’s Karolina Pliskova, but she had to survive a plethora of breaks. Maybe with a little more focus and equanimity, Ivanovic can give a better account of herself and take the Royals to a coveted victory.
#4 Ivanisevic has to rediscover his service bombs
Royals’ legend Goran Ivanisevic currently lies at No. 13 in the IPTL ‘Most Aces’ leaderboard, with just eight aces so far. That is definitely not expected from the man who is the possessor of a staggering 10,131 career aces and who unleashed 213 aces on his way to winning the 2001 Wimbledon title.
The Croat’s serve has been a whimper on many occasions at the 2015 IPTL which is evidenced by the fact that he is at No. 3 on the ‘Double Faults’ leaderboard, having committed 12 so far. Because of this, the Manila leg saw Ivanisevic succumbing to both Fabrice Santoro and Mark Philippoussis easily.
It is imperative that Ivanisevic finds the edge on his once-devastating serve so that the Royals can find themselves in a more comfortable position.
#5 Mladenovic should polish up her game
Kristina Mladenovic is an all-round player with a decent serve, fiery groundstrokes and nifty volleying skills. She is indispensable to the UAE Royals’ success, being an extremely competent doubles player too.
However, the Frenchwoman’s play is plagued by slow starts very often. Many a time during the 2015 IPTL, the two-time mixed doubles Major winner has begun with a flurry of unforced errors and has taken some time to settle down.
Against less strong teams, she has been able to manoeuvre the set her way even after conceding the early advantage. But the early sluggishness has backfired against the more proficient pairs like that of Indian Aces’ Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna, against whom she and partner Daniel Nestor crashed to a 4-6 defeat.
Mladenovic should look to start with a bang so that the Royals duo does not have to expend extra energy into climbing its way back into a set.