Coca-Cola IPTL diary: Hantuchova's heroics not heroic enough on Day 1
The Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League got off to a terrific start in Delhi today and the large crowd at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium was treated to two brilliant matches. Initially the stadium took some time to fill up, but the crowds built up as the first match between the UAE Royals and the Singapore Slammers got underway.
The action began with the UAE Royals taking on the Singapore Slammers.
Cilic proves too strong for Hewitt, and Royals dominate in doubles too
The 2002 US Open Champion took on the reigning US Open champion to kick off proceedings of the IPTL in India. Cilic began by serving superbly and he easily dictated play from the back of the court against the veteran Aussie. UAE soon raced to a 5-1 lead.
At this point, the crowd got behind Hewitt who fought back by converting a strategically timed Happiness Power Point. He won back-to-back games and even had a chance to level the serve, and his resurgence prompted the UAE Royals to take a time-out. Cilic eventually closed the contest on what was the longest rally of the set to win it 6-3.
UAE Royals took a huge lead in the doubles set between Zimonjic-Cilic and Kyrgios-Hewitt, and didn't give any opportunity to the Singapore Slammers to reduce the lead. Zimonjic and Cilic covered both the back of the court and the net exceptionally well to put the UAE Royals in command of the tie. They won the set 6-2.
Ivanisevic shows glimpses of his Wimbledon-winning form, and Kyrgios entertains
Goran Ivanisevic played lights-out tennis, easily his best of the tournament so far, to thump Pat Rafter 6-1. Those booming serves and that swagger were fully on display as the Croat handed Rafter a bread-stick to forget. The crowd, of course, loved Ivanisevic. When someone in the crowd shouted "I love you!" to the 2001 Wimbledon champion and he won the next point, he blew a flying kiss back, instantly drawing cheers from the crowd.
The most competitive set of tennis was the mixed doubles between Zimonjic-Mladenovic and Kyrgios-Hantuchova. At 30-40 in the 4th game of the set, the chair umpire overruled a point and asked for a replay which saw the entire UAE team, led by Ivanisevic, stage a mock protest. UAE won the replayed point as well to restore serve.
This set also saw many entertaining points as Kyrgios pulled off a tweener, a lob with his back to the net and a diving volley. But UAE clinched another break of serve and closed the set 6-4.
Hantuchova provides some consolation for the Slammers
The final set turned out to be a roller-coaster and the crowd loved it. Hantuchova raced to a 5-1 lead before Wozniacki could even warm up to the match. But the Dane managed to pull back to 5-4 as she found her feet and range, and Hantuchova suddenly became nervous when closing out the set. Eventually, the Slovak won the set 6-4.
Since a team cannot win the match after losing the final game, to reach a Super Shoot-out the Singapore Slammers had to win 12 games, while the UAE Royals had to win just one to claim the match. Wozniacki easily held on to her service game and sealed the victory for the UAE Royals.
Final score: 29-16
It was an easy victory for the UAE Royals today. By the time the Slammers started to put on a fight, they were too far behind. Ivanisevic and Cilic, in particular, came out exceptionally strong and established the early lead which set the tone for the Royals' victory.
With this win, the Royals get four points in the ‘Happiness Open’ and keep the pressure on the Indian Aces, who played later in the evening. The Slammers slavaged one point for racking up 10 games and remained at the bottom of the table.
What the players said
"Today I played unbelievable", said Goran Ivanisevic on beating his old rival Pat Rafter. Nenad Zimonjic said it was good to win his mixed doubles match with "Kiki" Kristina Mladenovic after the close losses in Manila and Singapore.
Kristina Mladenovic described them as "dangerous" when asked about how it felt to face Nick Kyrgios’s powerful serves.