In the second match of the Raipur leg of the 2015 Champions Tennis League (CTL), the Rangers play host to the formidable Punjab Marshalls at the Balbir Juneja Stadium on Wednesday. It will be a daunting task for the hosts as they are up against a team who have not lost a single encounter at the 2015 CTL so far.
With three out of three wins, the Marcos Baghdatis-powered Marshalls have looked the strongest and the most well-coordinated squad, ready to lay their hands on the trophy. Can the Raipur Rangers overturn the 15-23 defeat of the Chandigarh leg and jolt the mighty Marshalls? We analyse:
Women’s singles: Alize Cornet vs Elina Svitolina
After losing her opening set against the US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, 21-year-old Elina Svitolina has soared in confidence with each of her subsequent matches. She turned the tables on the Italian the next time they met, and thumped Raipur Rangers’ Alize Cornet 5-1 in their last CTL meeting.
Clearly, the World No. 19 has overcome her jittery nerves and is letting her fabulous forehand do the talking on the court. She crosses swords with Cornet once again in this away tie and will look to dominate again. However, the Ukrainian needs to be on her guard because the 43rd ranked Frenchwoman is a feisty competitor who can beat the very best in the world on her day.
Legends’ singles: Thomas Muster vs Greg Rusedski
Of the two legends, it is Punjab’s Greg Rusedski who has looked sharper and more accurate with his game so far. Much like Svitolina, the Briton too has blocked out the unfavourable result of his opening tie against Mumbai’s Richard Krajicek and gotten better and better as the tournament has progressed.
The former US Open runner-up’s aggressive play lit up the court when he took on Krajicek the next time, and he also subdued Raipur’s Thomas Muster 5-2 to record back-to-back wins.
This set will be an arduous task for the Austrian. During their professional career too, the 1995 French Open champion Muster had a losing 0-3 head-to-head record against Rusedski, which further indicates his difficulty at countering the left-handed British player’s attacking game. The outcome doesn’t look likely to be much different this time.
Men’s singles: Roberto Bautista Agut vs Marcos Baghdatis
This is where the tie gets interesting. World No. 25 Roberto Bautista Agut withstood the Marcos Baghdatis challenge the last time they met and emerged victorious in the men’s singles set. It was the final set of the day and Punjab were nearing victory but the Spaniard put up a gritty show to prevail over the determined Cypriot.
Can Bautista Agut rise to the occasion once again and inspire his team in front of the boisterous home crowd?That is easier said than done as Baghdatis simply thrives in this league format and has always played a key role in his team’s triumphs. He would be more than eager to get back to his winning ways and help his team continue their unbeaten streak.
Men’s doubles: Bautista Agut/Ramanathan vs Baghdatis/Myneni
Asian Games gold medallist Saketh Myneni’s devastating serve was always expected to be the difference-maker in men’s doubles, and so far it has been so. The Myneni serve coupled with Baghdatis’ sharp angles and solid baseline game have so far delivered two wins out of three sets for the Marshalls.
On paper, the table toppers should be reigning supreme in this encounter too.However, the Indo-Cypriot duo did stutter in their last match against Mumbai. Even though it was a narrow loss in the tie-break, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Bautista Agut would try their best to capitalize on that result to dent the visitors’ confidence further.
Mixed doubles: Bautista Agut/Cornet vs Baghdatis/Svitolina
The last time these two pairs met, it turned out to be a thrilling affair with the pair of Bautista Agut and Cornet just about managing to edge past Baghdatis and Svitolina in a tie-break. There was little to separate the two teams for much of the set as neither pair gave the other an inch on the court.
The follow-up act to it should be exciting too; this could well turn out to be the most thrilling affair of the tie. Be ready for a sizzling firecracker of a contest that will leave the spectators at the Balbir Juneja Stadium spellbound!