The high-flying Indian Aces were grounded to a screeching halt by the Singapore Slammers the last time the top two teams of the 2015 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) met in Dubai. That is certainly something the defending champions mustn’t have enjoyed, even though it had a lot to do with their legend Fabrice Santoro being unwell.
They would be keen to post a grudge win over the young and energetic team of the Singapore Slammers on Saturday. And what better place to do it than at the home ground of the Slammers, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium?
This match might very well be a prelude to the grand finale on Sunday where the Aces and Slammers are expected to clash again. Can the 2014 winners stamp their authority this time?
We try to find out:
Women’s singles: Belinda Bencic vs Agnieszka Radwanska (probable)
The last time that Agnieszka Radwanska and Belinda Bencic met, it was the vast experience of the Pole which shone through. The World No. 5, who has come to the IPTL2 right after winning her biggest career title at the WTA Finals, did not put a foot wrong. With eight winners, the former Wimbledon runner-up broke her 18-year-old opponent thrice to claim the set 6-3.
The Indian Aces player should be coming into this contest with a lot of confidence after conceding only 12 games throughout her IPTL2 campaign. However, World No. 14 Bencic is no pushover. One of the fastest-rising youngsters on the WTA Tour, the Swiss has two titles in 2015 and one of those victories came over none other than Radwanska.
She certainly knows how to trouble her more accomplished opponent and can make this set very competitive.
Men’s singles: Stan Wawrinka vs Bernard Tomic (probable)
With his array of slices and finesse, Bernard Tomic can very well stand up to the test against the power-hitters. That is why it is no surprise that he has a career win over the World No. 4 Stan Wawrinka.
But that win happens to have come four years back when the Swiss had not fully realized his potential. A better evaluation of how this contest could turn out in 2015 can be made from their most recent showdown at the Paris Masters in November.
The Aussie, who broke into the top 20 this year, did make a set very interesting but the French Open champion emerged unscathed 6-3, 7-6. Having lost his maiden singles IPTL set to his compatriot Roger Federer of the UAE Royals on Friday, the Singapore player would be doubly motivated to get this win.
And that is ominous for the Indian Aces’ Tomic.
Legends’ singles: Carlos Moya vs Fabrice Santoro (probable)
Under unfortunate circumstances, this set went to the Singapore Slammers in their most recent showdown at Dubai. One of Indian Aces’ most dependable members, Fabrice Santoro was taken ill and he could not take the court against the Slammers’ Carlos Moya, resulting in a walkover win for the Singapore team.
That ultimately proved disastrous for the Indian squad as they slumped to just their second loss of the IPTL2.
Here’s hoping that the ‘Magician’ Santoro has fully recovered and is able to regale the crowd with his usual magic tricks when the two teams lock horns on Saturday. If he is fit, the advantage lies mostly with the Frenchman, given how well he has performed in the second season of the IPTL.
Men’s doubles: Kyrgios/Melo vs Dodig/Bopanna (probable)
The Aces had fielded Bernard Tomic alongside Ivan Dodig in their last outing against the Slammers. But the decision to rest the more experienced Rohan Bopanna backfired as the Dodig-Tomic duo succumbed to a 4-6 defeat.
The team would certainly not repeat that mistake this time, and Bopanna and Dodig would be keen to exact revenge.
Having said that, World No. 1 Marcelo Melo and Nick Kyrgios too have played quite a few sets together at the IPTL2. By now, they are well-settled into the quirky format and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Besides, Melo is very familiar with Indian Aces’ Dodig’s game, having partnered the Croat to the French Open title this year.
Bopanna and Dodig cannot afford to make many errors and have to come up with superb returns to counter the big-hitting game of their rival team.
Mixed doubles: Brown/Pliskova vs Bopanna/Mirza (probable)
This is a grudge match for the formidable Indian Aces duo of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna. The heavy favourites were edged in a shootout by the big-serving duo of Karolina Pliskova and Dustin Brown in their Dubai clash.
Things would not be easy for the Aces duo even though they are eager to make amends, as Pliskova and Brown have looked unstoppable and even clinched a victory on Friday against the UAE Royals. Their attacking instincts were on full display as they subjected Roger Federer and Kristina Mladenovic to a 6-3 defeat.
This set has the ingredients to be a thriller and can very well be the most closely-contested set of the day. It will all depend on who can hold their nerve till the end.
Note: The singles and doubles match-ups are as per our assumptions for the most obvious player combinations. They are subject to change if one or more of the players are unavailable from either team, or if the team managements decide to change the combinations based on current form.