The final of the IPTL 2015 was a repeat of yesterday's quasi semi-final tie, which saw the Indian Aces take on the Singapore Slammers on home ground and lose. And although it was the Aces who were not only reigning champions but the stronger side on paper, the Slammers fought through the league with immense spirit to finish second in the standings ahead of today’s final – and that was reflected in the match today as well.
The Aces’ top-of-the-table standing was buoyed by the presence of their marquee signing Rafael Nadal during his IPTL stint, and by coach and legend Fabrice Santoro, with Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna pitching in with some good performances as well. Despite this, however, they appeared to suffer from a lull in form, and the Slammers took full advantage.
The home team came into today’s match as the favourites, having outclassed the Aces 27-21 yesterday and upset them 27-16 prior to that win, and they played to form to grab their maiden IPTL title.
Here's how the final panned out:
Legends’ singles: Fabrice Santoro (Indian Aces) vs Carlos Moya (Singapore Slammers)
Santoro has played an intelligent, calculated game all through the league, managing to beat every competitor he has faced – except Carlos Moya. In the past three ties the pair had played Moya had been victorious in each, although one of those was courtesy a walkover, with Santoro recovering from an illness.
Although he’s been outclassed by Moya at the IPTL, it is the Frenchman who holds the edge on the professional circuit. But that amounted to nothing today, as Moya attacked with strong serving and solid play from the baseline to counter his opponent.
Moya took the set against Santoro 6-4 to give the Singapore Slammers the lead in the tie.
Result: Moya def. Santoro 6-4
Women’s singles: Svetlana Kuznetsova (Indian Aces) vs Belinda Bencic (Singapore Slammers)
Swiss teen Belinda Bencic utterly outplayed two-time singles Slam winner Kuznetsova in the Aces-Slammers tie last night, defeating the more-experienced player 6-2 as she systematically took her game apart. The 14th-ranked Bencic has been in fine form all year on the WTA circuit, and has carried that momentum to the IPTL.
But the Russian appeared to have learned a few lessons from her loss to the Swiss yesterday – her first match in the IPTL, and today played a much tighter game. Harkening back to her days as World No. 2, Kuznetsova brought out some superb defensive baseline play to combat the strong double-handed backhand of Belinda Bencic.
The set began and continued with each player breaking the other, and at two games each it was finally Bencic who held to take the lead. Kuznetsova would break and be broken again in a contest that was fought tooth and nail, with the players finally going to a shootout.
Bencic cruised through the shootout despite losing a power point, and won it 7-3 to take the set 6-5 for the Slammers.
The win gave the hosts a 12-9 lead.
Result: Bencic def. Kuznetsova 6-5
Mixed doubles: Mirza/Bopanna (Indian Aces) vs Brown/Pliskova (Singapore Slammers)
The all-Indian Aces pair started the season in stunning form, but their momentum had petered out towards the end of the tournament. Although the Slammers pair beat the Aces in the Dubai leg of this year’s tournament, Mirza and Bopanna managed to avenge the loss in yesterday’s tie.
A significantly stronger team than their rivals on paper, the Aces were broken first in today’s set. But doubles World No. 1 Sania Mirza stuck to the service line and played a precise game, ably partnering the star of the set – Rohan Bopanna – to make a storming comeback.
Bopanna’s strong serves whizzed past their opponents, and he hit three aces in a row at one point. It was the Aces pair who won the set 6-2, giving the team a 15-14 lead in the tie.
Result: Mirza/Bopanna def. Brown/Pliskova 6-2
Men's singles: Bernard Tomic (Indian Aces) vs Stan Wawrinka (Singapore Slammers)
Wawrinka made his IPTL debut in the Singapore leg of the tournament, playing his first match against compatriot and Davis Cup teammate Roger Federer. Yesterday, the World No. 4 took on Bernard Tomic, who had looked set to steamroll him in the pair’s set before the Swiss made a late charge to win from 2-5 down.
Although the Australian has had a good season on the ATP circuit, he hasn't been as lucky at the IPTL. Prior to his loss to Wawrinka, he was nearly bageled in his loss to his own compatriot and Wawrinka’s Slammers teammate Nick Kyrgios.
The only player to defeat Djokovic at a Grand Slam this year, the French Open winner brought out his strong backhand, breaking and holding to take a 5-2 lead over Tomic. In the end, with nine winners through the set to his rival's three, Wawrinka won 6-3.
The victory handed the Slammers the lead again, with the scores now poised at 20-18.
Result: Wawrinka def. Tomic 6-3
Men’s doubles: Bopanna/Dodig (Indian Aces) vs Wawrinka/Melo (Singapore Slammers)
Although the Slammers had paired doubles World No. 1 Marcelo Melo with Nick Kyrgios in their prior doubles ties, they went with the in-form Wawrinka today. The singles World No. 4 and doubles World No. 1 were up against Melo’s own doubles partner on the ATP circuit, Ivan Dodig.
It may have been the Aces pair who were more proficient at the doubles on paper, and spectators and analysts likely expected an even contest. But the Slammers led the Aces 3-0 at one point in the set, and with the home side at 5-2, it was the Aces who were serving to stay in the match.
Although they held, they were unable to break their rivals in the final game, and Wawrinka and Melo won the set 6-3. A shaken Aces side committed 10 unforced errors during the course of the set, making life easier for the home team.
Wawrinka and Melo's absolute dominance also unseated the Indian Aces as champions of the IPTL, giving the Singapore Slammers their maiden title.
Result: Wawrinka/Melo def. Bopanna Dodig 6-3
Final Result: Singapore Slammers def. Indian Aces 27-21 to win IPTL 2015
Most Valuable Players
Indian Aces’ Ivan Dodig was declared the men’s Most Valuable Player of the tournament, while Singapore Slammers' Swiss sensation Belinda Bencic was the women’s MVP for her staggering form through the course of the tournament. This was a nice feather in the cap of the 18-year-old, who is already being described as the “next Martina Hingis.”Published 20 Dec 2015, 15:09 IST