Coming into today’s tie on the back of a rousing victory over the UAE Royals with their star player Rafael Nadal joining the action, the Indian Aces were up against a strong Philippine Mavericks side.
While the Aces top the table, it’s the Philippine Mavericks who occupy second spot in the table with a 54.4 win percentage, most recently beating the Japan Warriors.
With their team combination in fine working order and Nadal providing a spurt of inspiration, the Indian Aces seemed to be the strong favourites. But the Mavericks, led by their own all-time great champion Serena Williams, had other ideas.
(For tickets to the Indian Aces matches, click here).
Here’s how the tie unfolded:
Legends’ singles: Mark Philippoussis (Philippine Mavericks) vs Fabrice Santoro (Indian Aces)
Australian legend Philippoussis is in fine form, having taken three victories on the trot against fellow legends Marat Safin, Goran Ivanisevic and Thomas Enqvist.
Santoro, meanwhile, is a tactical talent, and accounted for former No. 2 Goran Ivanisevic in his last tie, beating the Croat 6-3.
Philippoussis had the advantage of momentum, and unleashed his arsenal of big serves against the Frenchman’s tact. It was the Australian who would come up trumps in the tie, hitting six aces with Santoro unable to muster a single one.
Although he committed twice as many unforced errors as his French competitor, Philippoussis more than made up for it as he hit three times as many winners. Thoroughly overpowering his opponent, Philippoussis gave the Mavericks a 6-4 lead.
Result: Philippoussis def. Santoro 6-4
Men’s doubles: Gasquet/Roger-Vasselin (Philippine Mavericks) vs Dodig/Nadal (Indian Aces)
The Dodig/Nadal pairing is a new one, while Gasquet and Roger-Vasselin know each other well, coming from the same country. The Aces pair took a comfortable victory yesterday, beating the UAE Royals 6-3 in their set, but the all-French Mavericks pair came into the tie unbeaten so far.
Gasquet is currently the ninth-ranked singles player in the world and Roger-Vasselin is ranked No. 17 in doubles, so this was not a team that would go down easily.
But when there's Nadal on the other side of the net, predictions and expectations can often go out of the window. Dodig did his bit too, and he along with the Spaniard put in a solid performance to break their rivals once on course to an eventual 6-4 victory.
The Aces’ win equalised the score at 10-all.
Result: Dodig/Nadal def. Gasquet/Roger-Vasselin 6-4
Mixed doubles: Williams/Huey (Philippine Mavericks) vs Mirza/Bopanna (Indian Aces)
Williams and Huey have had moderate success together, winning one tie and losing another. In their previous match, the Mavericks played Williams with Milos Raonic to good effect as they took a 6-4 victory over their rivals.
Today, they played home favourite Huey with the singles World No. 1, against two strong doubles players – one of them the current doubles No. 1. Mirza has played previously with both Bopanna and teammate Ivan Dodig in the mixed doubles, with the all-Indian pair winning one and losing one.
Today, Bopanna and Mirza hit three aces to their rivals’ two, but nearly twice as many winners, committing only two unforced errors. Williams and Huey, on the other hand, committed five as their Indian rivals broke them twice.
What was striking to see was the way the Indians absorbed the power of Serena, forcing her to hit that one extra shot. Mirza and Bopanna eventually took a spirited 6-3 victory, which helped the Indian Aces to a 16-13 lead.
Result: Mirza/Bopanna def. Williams/Huey 6-3
Women’s singles: Serena Williams (Philippine Mavericks) vs Samantha Stosur (Indian Aces)
Tonight marked World No. 1 Williams’ last match in this edition of the IPTL, and the fiery American brought her big shots and big screams on to the court. Although Williams has suffered shock upsets – to Japanese youngster Kurumi Nara and to Karolina Pliskova, she took two rousing victories on the trot, one of them against former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.
Though Stosur has turned her own fortunes around similarly, it is Williams who leads their head-to-head 8-3. That said, it is the Australian who took the most recent victory.
Given Williams’ current form, it was always going to be difficult to beat her. The American was fully dialed in today and hit eight winners to Stosur’s four, successfully staving off the Australian to win 6-3.
Her win equalised the scores again, levelling the teams at 19-all.
Result: Williams def. Stosur 6-3
Men’s singles: Milos Raonic (Philippine Mavericks) vs Rafael Nadal (Indian Aces)
14th-ranked Raonic has played some good tennis this IPTL, having won his last two fixtures against top-10 players Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych convincingly. He also excelled at the doubles with World No. 1 Serena Williams, and had strong momentum coming into the match.
Nadal has been in some great form of his own as he kicked off his inaugural IPTL by helping his team to a rousing victory over the UAE Royals. Unfortunately for Raonic, Nadal held a 6-1 record against the Canadian, and a weak backhand – something Nadal enjoys attacking against all his opponents.
Although the Spaniard was the favourite to win, the results were not what spectators – or Nadal himself – expected. Raonic seriously tested the former No. 1, hitting three aces as Nadal was unable to hit any at all.
He also hit 13 winners to Nadal’s paltry three, and in every sense of the word outplayed the Spaniard. With Raonic up a break at one point, the final set of the tie went to a shootout as the pair levelled 5-5 – and then to sudden death, with Raonic eventually taking the win 6-5.
That win would hand Raonic’s side – the Mavericks – a 25-24 victory over the Indian Aces.
Result: Raonic def. Nadal 6-5