After a forgettable first couple of matches, Mumbai Tennis Masters head to Chandigarh for the return leg against Punjab Marshalls. The visitors, who are currently languishing at the third spot in Group A, will be eager to bounce back from their torrid start to the tournament.
However, the home team have the talismanic Marcos Baghdatis within their ranks, and that could well be the biggest difference-maker. The Cypriot has the ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and countering his all-court skills will certainly not be an easy task for the Masters.
We have seen how the sets unraveled when these two teams met in Mumbai, with the Marshalls edging the hosts for a 21-19 victory. Can it be any different this time? Let us have a look:
Women’s singles: Elina Svitolina vs Flavia Pennetta
Mumbai Tennis Masters’ Flavia Pennetta was one of the two players to have won a set during their home tie against the Punjab Marshalls. The 33-year-old US Open winner put on a blazing display of her fearsome backhand that drew a tepid response from Elina Svitolina, 12 years her junior.
The World No.19 Ukrainian lost 2-5, but nerves probably did play a part in that performance. After having played two matches, she is better conditioned now to deal with the Indian weather and the format of the league.
Svitolina is expected to give a better fight to the Italian this time, but Pennetta's wealth of experience and her fierce groundstrokes will likely help her pull through this one.
Legends’ singles: Greg Rusedski vs Richard Krajicek
1996 Wimbledon winner Richard Krajicek was the other Mumbai player to emerge victorious in their home tie. It was an absorbing display of pure serve-and-volley tennis played by the Dutchman and the
1997 US Open runner-up Greg Rusedski, and Krajicek proved to be a tad steadier in the crunch moments to come away the winner.The British lefty – a holder of 15 titles – used to thrive on hardcourts during his playing days and it was no wonder that he kept the match extremely competitive against Krajicek and lost only narrowly, 4-5.
Rusedski also has a 6-4 head-to-head record over the Dutchman, which surely helped him to compete well in that match.However, Krajicek has looked very sharp, confident and comfortable on the Indian hardcourts and has notched up two victories so far. He would surely want to play his part again if Mumbai are to turn around their fortunes.
Men’s singles: Santiago Giraldo vs Marcos Baghdatis
Every team needs to be wary of 2006 Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis in the CTL. The 2014 MVP’s solid baseline game, firepower off both wings and never-say-die attitude have lit up many a match, and Monday’s opening CTL contest between these two teams was no exception.
The Cypriot held his nerve admirably well under pressure and came up with a clutch drop shot that was instrumental in delivering the 5-4 win for the Marshalls. His heroics were similar to how he had propelled last year’s champions Pune Marathas to victories from adverse situations numerous times.
Baghdatis would once again love to show that fighting spirit in front of the home fans. Santiago Giraldo of the Mumbai Tennis Masters, who reached a career-high ranking of 28 last year, surely knows how to play on the big stage, but it would need more than just that to overcome Baghdatis and his guts.
Men’s doubles: Baghdatis/Myneni vs Giraldo/Balaji
Saketh Myneni’s booming serve and Baghdatis’ superb play from the ground helped the Punjab team to coast to a 5-3 victory in their last encounter. The pair looked thoroughly at home in Mumbai against the duo of Santiago Giraldo and Sriram Balaji.
Baghdatis' presence in any team makes you lean towards that team because of his stupendous display so far. However, the Mumbai duo cannot be taken lightly. The 25-year-old Balaji has had decent success in doubles this year, winning five ITF Futures titles.
Besides, Giraldo is the current World No. 167 in doubles and has reached the quarterfinals or better thrice in ATP tournaments in 2015.With the visitors eagerly looking forward to open their account on the points table, is this set their best chance to upstage the favourites?
Mixed doubles: Baghdatis/Svitolina vs Giraldo/Pennetta
With a former doubles World No. 1 in the team, Mumbai Tennis Masters would certainly have earmarked mixed doubles as an area of strength for them. But contrary to expectations, it was the Punjab pair of Baghdatis and Svitolina who ruled the court against Pennetta and Giraldo on Monday.
Is it time for the 2011 Australian Open doubles winner Pennetta to make amends? There’s no doubt that the Italian veteran, even after professional retirement, can give others a run for their money. Her ferocious strokes coupled with her deft touches at the net make her the most competent player out of the four in this tie.
And if she can get the required support from Giraldo, Mumbai can surely reign supreme in this one.Having said that, Baghdatis and Svitolina come into this contest with a winning momentum and won’t be easy to put away.Published 27 Nov 2015, 23:03 IST