Following a blockbuster conclusion to the India leg of the International Premier Tennis League, which saw longtime rivals and friends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal take each other on in a fight to the finish, the tournament has now moved to its penultimate leg in Dubai.
World No. 5 Nadal will not be with the Indian Aces side in Dubai, but the team, looking to keep up their winning run, are well-equipped nevertheless.
The Aces currently sit top of the table; although they have played just as many matches as the UAE Royals, they have won more games, and thus lead the Dubai-based team on games won percentage.
The Warriors, meanwhile, are at the bottom of the standings, having won only one tie of the eight they have played so far. But they still have some firepower left in them; Belgian ace Kirsten Flipkens made her IPTL debut on Saturday.
All in all, the Aces looked significantly stronger going into the tie, and that's exactly how the result turned out too.
Here’s how things unfolded:
Mixed Doubles: Mirza/Bopanna (Indian Aces) vs Flipkens/Herbert (Japan Warriors)
While the Indian Aces’ doubles pair featuring doubles World No. 1 Sania Mirza have looked absolutely dominant, Herbert has been a top 10 doubles player and is currently 14th in the world.
The Warriors today chose not to play 17-time Grand Slam winner Leander Paes in the doubles, pairing Flipkens with the Frenchman instead. Whilst most expected the Aces to win easily, that was not the case.
The newly-anointed Warriors doubles pair hit a mammoth 14 winners en route to a 6-4 victory over the pair of Mirza and Bopanna.
The Warriors’ win took the lead to 6-4 in their favour.
Result: Flipkens/Herbert def. Mirza/Bopanna 6-4
Women’s singles: Agnieszka Radwanska (Indian Aces) vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Japan Warriors)
WTA Finals winner Radwanska was a firm favourite going into this set. Fresh off a 6-1 pummelling of the UAE Royals’ Kristina Mladenovic in the team’s last tie, the Polish ace has been in strong form. In addition, in Lucic-Baroni’s last set – incidentally, against Radwanska – she played an error-strewn game, eventually substituted by teammate Kurumi Nara as the pair lost the set 6-2.
Radwanska continued her demolition of every opponent in her path as she triumphed over Lucic-Baroni 6-1. Although the Croat hit eight winners, she continued her pattern of playing error-strewn games, and committed 16 unforced errors on her way to an eventual loss.
The Pole’s win took the Aces to a 10-7 lead.
Result: Radwanska def. Lucic-Baroni 6-1
Legends’ singles: Fabrice Santoro (Indian Aces) vs Thomas Enqvist (Japan Warriors)
Wily and strategic, Fabrice Santoro has been in brilliant nick. Coming back from a deficit against the UAE Royals’ Goran Ivanisevic in the teams’ last tie, the Frenchman ran across court like a marathoner, managing to respond to near-impossible shots off the racquet of the Croat.
He would eventually win that set from 2-5 down, in the process putting his team in a near-unassailable position. In the last tie between the Warriors and the Aces, Santoro took on a relatively new Enqvist, who had come on as a replacement for the injured Marat Safin, and defeated him 6-3.
Santoro’s victory today, though expected, was stronger than predicted – the Frenchman hit nine winners to his opponent’s four, committing eight unforced errors as he bageled his Swedish opponent.
Santoro’s 6-0 win meant the Aces would lead 16-7.
Result: Fabrice Santoro def. Thomas Enqvist 6-0
Men’s doubles: Bopanna/Dodig (Indian Aces) vs Herbert/Leander Paes (Japan Warriors)
Bopanna and Dodig are both stellar doubles exponents, and have been in good nick of late, with Bopanna reaching the final tie of the ATP World Tour Finals. With one win and one closely fought loss to their name, they were up against a formidable pair – US Open doubles winner Pierre-Hugues Herbert and 17-time Grand Slam winner Leander Paes.
As was expected of a tie between such formidable opponents, the contest went down to the wire. There was virtually nothing separating the pairs, with an older Paes pulling off some great athleticism during the set.
They would eventually go to a tiebreak, with Bopanna and Dodig dominating to win it 7-2, and with it closing out the set.
The Aces’ pair hit 11 winners to their opponents’ nine to take an eventual 6-5 victory, giving the Aces a 22-12 lead.
Result: Bopanna/Dodig def. Herbert/Paes 6-5
Men’s singles: Bernard Tomic (Indian Aces) vs Philipp Kohlschreiber (Japan Warriors)
The young Australian made his IPTL debut for the Indian Aces today, up against 34th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. Ranked 18th, Tomic will likely not have been too worried going into the tie – he’s met the German three times prior, taking two of those matches.
Their most recent meeting, at the 2015 Australian Open, went the way of the Australian. But he appeared rusty today against the 32-year-old German, who with 11 winners took a surprise victory for the Japan Warriors as he beat Tomic 6-3.
By this time, however, it was too late for the Warriors to salvage the tie, and the Indian Aces took an eventual 25-18 victory.
Result: Kohlschreiber def. Tomic 6-3