Coca-Cola IPTL diary: Indian Aces pull out a rabbit from the hat in sensational comeback win
The Indian Aces were given a rousing recpetion as the 'home team' made their way on court to take on the Manila Mavericks. The crowd was waiting feverishly for this match and their enthusiasm really showed. Every point won by the Aces was loudly cheered and the match proved to be a close and thriling affair.
Indian Aces player-coach Fabrice Santoro won the toss and decided to serve first.
The Indians’ winning streak seems a distant memory
It was a tightly contested set between Mirza-Bopanna and Flipkens-Nestor. There was an early exchange of breaks but thereafter, each team played solidly behind their serve. The air was rife with shouts of "Come on Sania!" and "Come on Rohan!". Eventually, the score reached 5-5 and that meant it was time for the five-minute shoot-out.
The Mavericks raced ahead first as they converted a Happiness Power point at 3-4 to move to 3-6. But the Indian Aces converted their own Power point and pulled up to 6-7. An interesting thing to note was that both teams were signalling their intention to call the Power Point by throwing a towel on to the court.
At 6-7, the tension was palpable and perhaps it even got to the chair umpire as he miscalled the point to the Aces. The crowd was alert to this and soon the players realised the error as well, and the umpire corrected his call. The Mavericks won the shoot-out 8-6 and took the first set 6-5.
Phillipoussis continues to impress in Delhi
In this battle of former Grand Slam finalists, Mark Phillipousis (runner-up at Wimbledon 2003 and US Open 1998) overcame a spirited fight from Cedric Pioline (runner-up at Wimbledon 1997 and US Open 1993). Both players were visibly putting their best efforts into making the set competitive, and everything went on serve till 4-5 with Pioline serving.
The crowd, which had been observing the proceedings thus far in a slightly subdued manner, got behind Pioline as he faltered on his serve and faced two match points. He saved one with an unreturned serve and the other with a deft drop volley at the net. At this point, the Mavericks called for a time-out and when play resumed, they clinched the deciding point to win the set 6-4.
Bopanna produces magic but Tsonga puts his foot down
The encounter between Bopanna-Monfils and Tsonga-Huey saw another close set and another five-minute shoot-out. But this time, the Aces were able to pull through. With 20 seconds to go and the Mavericks only a point behind, Bopanna and Monfils gambled with the clock to ensure that there was only time to play one point. They won that point with an unreturned serve and the set 6-5.
In men’s singles, the battle of the two mercurial and entertaining Frenchmen was just that. Monfils used the crowd to propel himself, and Tsonga hit hard from the back of the court to keep his compatriot at bay. In a manner similar to the previous sets, both teams held their serve till the business end of the set.
Early on, it looked like Monfils might edge Tsonga. But at 4-5, while serving to stay in the set, Monfils fell to 0-40. Even a time-out called by Coach Fabrice Santoro didn't help and Tsonga won the set 6-4.
Ivanovic completes the comeback for the Aces
The equation was simple for Ivanovic. She had to win the set with a gap of four games to at least force a Super Shoot-out. She started off well, breaking Flipkens to race to a 2-0 lead. But Flipkens broke back and levelled the scores to 2-2.
From this point onwards, Ivanovic couldn't afford to lose a game. And with the backing of the loud crowd, the Serb did just that. She played some excellent tennis and the two players engaged in truly entertaining rallies. The Serb reeled off four games in a row to take the set 6-2 and force a Super Shoot-out.
Monfils seals dramatic Super Shoot-out win
Buoyed by the efforts of Ivanovic, a recharged Gael Monfils took on Tsonga again in the Super Shoot-out. Monfils pulled ahead to a 6-3 lead but a Happiness Power point brought Tsonga within touching distance.
With the clock constantly ticking down, the pair remained within a distance of two points. But with only 30 seconds to spare and the score at 9-7, Monfils won a crucial rally and extended the lead to three points. At this stage, the Mavericks threw in the metaphorical towel and the Shoot-out was awarded to the Indian Aces.
Final score: 26-25
The encounter thus came to a close on a thrilling note. The Indian Aces were elated by their efforts and by the manner of their victory in front of the home fans. There were close losses in the initial sets which left Ivanovic with the tough task of winning her set with only two games to spare. But the Serb delivered to a T.
The Indian Aces continue to be on top of the ‘Happiness Open’ with 24 points, while the Mavericks are now third with 19.
What the players said
When asked about his competitiveness with Federer and if they would share tips and secrets now that they are team-mates, Gael Monfils said that he's good friends with Federer and that they talked about playing together at the Davis Cup. He said they do talk about tennis quite often.
"For the moment there is no question about it. But, I mean, you know, for the IPTL, you know, it is great but for the tour it is another story."
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga talked on whether some of the new rules seen at the IPTL can make their way to the ATP tour. "I saw few times (players take) one minute", he said when asked why the shot-clock was good.