The Hyderabad Aces, led by Swedish ace Thomas Johansson, faced the Punjab Marshalls of British-Canadian legend Greg Rusedski in the finals of the Champions Tennis League tonight. With both teams boasting some power-packed players, it was always going to be a strong contest.
Ultimately though, Marcos Baghdatis’ experience in the tournament and his never-say-die spirit proved to be the difference between the two teams. As the contest went right down to the wire, the home crowd’s cheers weren’t enough to take Hyderabad over the line, and for the second year in a row, Baghdatis ended up as the last man standing, celebrating wildly with his teammates.
Here’s a look at how the electrifying tie unfolded:
Legends’ singles: Greg Rusedski (Punjab Marshalls) vs Thomas Johansson (Hyderabad Aces)
Both players came into today’s final in very strong form; Swedish Johansson was unbeaten at the event, while serve-and-volley expert Rusedski has been undefeated since his first round loss.
Johansson was the favourite going in, however, having displayed a bigger serve and slightly more solid play from the baseline; his form and game had been superior to that of the Briton through the tournament.
Tonight saw equally strong play from both, with each player holding in turn as they went 4-4, getting to the first tiebreak of the day’s play. It would eventually be Rusedski who took the tiebreak 5-2, winning the set 5-4.
The win gave Rusedski’s Punjab Marshalls a 5-4 lead.
Result: Rusedski def. Johansson 5-4
Women’s singles: Elina Svitolina (Punjab Marshalls) vs Martina Hingis (Hyderabad Aces)
The youngest ever World No. 1 at 16, Martina Hingis is still number 1 – albeit in the doubles. Up against the much-younger, far less experienced Svitolina, it was anybody’s guess who the win would go to – but Svitolina’s youth proved to be the game-changer in the final analysis.
The legendary Hingis, who has become a doubles specialist of late, has found the singles form that took her to the top rank for a significant time, only losing to another former No.1 – Jelena Jankovic – in this year’s CTL. And the Swiss drew first blood, breaking the Ukrainian to take the lead.
But Svitolina broke back to level the set. The pair then held in turn to level the scores, with the two fighting tooth and nail as Hingis broke once more to take a 4-3 lead.
The Ukrainian broke her right back yet again though, and the second set of the day also went to a tiebreak. The Punjab Marshalls won the tiebreak yet again, with Svitolina taking the set 5-4.
With this result, the Marshalls led 10-8.
Result: Svitolina def. Hingis 5-4
Mixed Doubles: Baghdatis/Svitolina (Punjab Marshalls) vs Hingis/Karlovic (Hyderabad Aces)
The apparent advantage would seem to be with the Aces pair – doubles No. 1 Martina Hingis is an asset to any team she is on, and partnering the big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic, the pair looked a shoo-in for the set.
Leading 2-1 with both pairs holding serve, Hingis and Karlovic proceeded to break Svitolina and go a break up. The Swiss/Croat pair led 3-1, consolidating that break to go up 4-1. Marshalls’ Baghdatis held to narrow that lead, but it was too late. Hingis served for the set immediately after, and she and Karlovic closed it out easily, 5-2.
This marked the Aces’ first set win this evening on home soil. The tides turned in favour of Hyderabad with the victory; they would now lead 13 games to Punjab’s 12.
Result: Hingis/Karlovic def. Baghdatis/Svitolina 5-2
Men’s Doubles: Myneni/Baghdatis (Punjab Marshalls) vs Karlovic/Nedunchezhiyan (Hyderabad Aces)
The tall Croat holds the record for the most number of aces hit in tennis history (over 10,000 and counting), and has produced a strong showing at the league. Meanwhile, Myneni has managed to buoy the fiery Baghdatis when the Cypriot’s game has faltered, hitting shots as big as Karlovic’s.
The Hyderabad Aces pair had won two of their four matches at this league, but it was the Punjab pair who looked stronger going into the match.
It would be the pair of Myneni and Baghdatis who broke their opponents first, using the super point they’d previously earned. But the Aces broke right back, with the pairs levelling each other again. The Punjab pair would then trail 4-2 and looked down on their luck, but came back with a vengeance to make it 4-3.
Baghdatis then managed to hold as the pair turned the set on its head to win 5-4 from a tiebreak.
That took the teams dead even at 17 games apiece.
Result: Baghdatis/Myneni def. Karlovic/Nedunchezhiyan 5-4
Men's doubles: Marcos Baghdatis (Punjab Marshalls) vs Ivo Karlovic (Hyderabad Aces)
Two of the best players in this year’s league, Baghdatis and Karlovic, were ranked fourth best and first respectively in this year’s Player standings. Baghdatis may not be in the form Karlovic is currently in, but he’s had a good time at the CTL, steering the Pune Marathas to victory last year.
At 4-3 after each held serve, Baghdatis served to stay in the set – and held. That meant the final match of the final would go to a tiebreak; four sets out of five in the final went that way.
Using their super point to level with Hyderabad in the tiebreak, the Punjab side eventually took victory, edging out the Hyderabad Aces by a single game 22-21.
Result: Baghdatis def. Karlovic 5-4
Final result: Punjab Marshalls def. Hyderabad Aces 22-21
Martina Hingis of the Hyderabad Aces won Most Valuable Player at the league; with a 70% win rate, she’s been more successful than any other player in the league.
Saketh Myneni was named Best Indian Player at the league a second year in a row.Published 06 Dec 2015, 20:54 IST