The points table says the Micromax Indian Aces finished the regular competition at the top of the pile. With a 54.1% win percentage, they entered the finals having won eight and lost three of the 11 ties they played over the course of the league. They were clearly a cut above above the second-placed Singapore Slammers, who won seven and lost four.
The Aces were also the reigning champions going into the tournament, having won the title last year led by Roger Federer.
However, the Slammers benefited from the presence of World No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, whilst the Aces missed their star players towards the home stretch. It was the Slammers who were favourites going into the final, despite the Aces’ consistency – they had beaten the table-toppers quite convincingly in the pair’s tie a day prior to the final.
All this shouldn’t take away anything from the runners-up, who were arguably the best team of the tournament. Here we take a look at how the season went for each of the Aces’ players:
Agnieszka Radwanska – 10/10
Won: 6, Lost: 0
The 5th-ranked Polish ace, who won the WTA Finals this year, joined the team in the New Delhi leg and gave the fans a lot to cheer about. She won all six sets that she played before leaving the tournament prior to the last leg.
The Aces were impacted by her absence, especially in the final, when Swiss ace Belinda Bencic, who had gone down to Radwanska, trounced Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova multiple times.
It was not just the fact that Radwanska had a clean slate, but also how convincingly she won each of her sets, which made Radwanska one of the primary driving forces behind the Aces’ high game-win percentage.
Rafael Nadal – 9/10
Won: 7, Lost: 1
Nadal, a fan favourite in and out of the IPTL, joined the league from the third match of the Manila leg.
He took the Aces to the top, winning most of his matches. In fact, his only loss came in a nail-biting thriller against Canadian ace Milos Raonic of the Philippine Mavericks, who won 6-5 against Nadal in probably the best set and match of the tournament.
Nadal left after the Delhi leg, but not before winning two sets against Federer, first in the doubles when he paired up with Bopanna to beat the Royals’ pair of Cilic/Federer, and then in singles – a reprisal of the pair’s longtime rivalry.
Sania Mirza – 8/10
Won: 9, Lost: 3
Sania Mirza was one of the most consistent players in the team, participating in each of their mixed doubles sets and playing all but two with Rohan Bopanna. After losing her first set of the season, she went on to win six in a row, and was paired with Bopanna in five of those six sets (she won a set with Ivan Dodig).
Along with Bopanna, Mirza pulled the Aces back into the contest against the Slammers in the final, only for the rest of the sets to be lost by the Aces players. Her formidable forehand and groundstrokes complemented Bopanna’s serve as the pair, who have played with each other in the past, regularly earned points for the Aces.
Rohan Bopanna – 8/10
Won: 15, Lost: 6
Rohan Bopanna was one of the most prolific players in the league this year. He partnered Sania in the mixed doubles, winning seven and losing thrice. He also partnered Ivan Dodig, Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils in the doubles, winning seven and losing two sets there.
He even stood in for Fabrice Santoro to play the Legends’ set when his coach and captain had to pull out due to bad health, beating former World No. 4 James Blake in roaring fashion, with Blake bageled 6-0. Bopanna was consistent with his serving and groundstrokes and was particularly good in Nadal’s presence in the second and third legs of the tournament.
Ivan Dodig – 8/10
Won: 9, Lost: 4
Doubles champion Dodig, who missed the first match of the tournament, entered the league with a bang – winning all his three sets in the next match. He was one of only two unbeaten players in IPTL 2 at the end of the first two legs.
However, his form tapered away in the latter half of the tournament, although he would eventually be elected the men’s Most Valuable Player of the tournament for his all-round performance.
The tall Croat played singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, sitting out when former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal participated in the IPTL 2.
Fabrice Santoro – 7/10
Won: 6, Lost: 5
The coach and legend had a great start to the tournament, peaking midway through. However, missing two matches as he fell sick, Santoro appeared a little enervated when he returned.
The Frenchman’s season was marred by the fact that he lost each set to Slammers legend and former No.1 Carlos Moya.
His figures were largely spoilt by the losses to Moya, given he had dominated most of the other legends whilst also coaching his Aces team.
Gael Monfils – 5/10
Won: 1, Lost: 1
The Frenchman could participate only in the first match of the season before a hamstring injury forced him out for the rest of the tournament. He won his doubles set with Rohan Bopanna, but lost out in the singles to Japanese ace Kei Nishikori.
Samantha Stosur - 4/10
Won: 1, Lost: 3
The Australian played in the first two legs of the IPTL 2 and did not fully showcase her prodigious skill. The only set she won was against the UAE Royals’ Kristina Mladenovic, and she lost to Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Karolina Pliskova before Radwanska joined the tournament to replace her.
Bernard Tomic – 3/10
Won: 1, Lost: 5
Tomic joined the Aces late, but did not have a strong showing in whatever part of the tournament he played.
He entered in the second half of the tournament after Nadal’s exit, focussing on the singles although he played the occasional doubles set.
However, he lost all the sets he played, barring one victory against Ivo Karlovic of the UAE Royals, whom he defeated 6-4. In the final, he was pitted against Stan Wawrinka and lost 3-6, although he had given the No. 4 ranked Swiss a much tougher fight in their previous set.
That previous set, however, had been Tomic’s to lose, with the Australian up 5-2 at one point against the Swiss, who came from behind to take victory. From 5-2, Tomic slumped to a 5-6 defeat.
Svetlana Kuznetsova – 3/10
Won: 0, Lost: 2
Kuznetsova, a former World No. 2, came on for an in-form Agnieszka Radwanska. But despite her two Grand Slam wins, the Russian was unable to live up to the expectations.
With no time to prepare, she had to jump in to play a dead rubber game and then the IPTL 2015 final, both against the Singapore Slammers’ Belinda Bencic, currently ranked No. 14 and fast moving up the ranks.
She lost both sets to the 18-year-old Swiss, although the second loss was much closer than the first. Kuznetsova managed to repeatedly break her younger competitor, finally slumping to a loss in the shootout.Published 21 Dec 2015, 19:17 IST