The Aces came into their second tie of the 2015 International Premier Tennis League on the back of a win over home team Legendari Japan Warriors, managing to scrape through with a 1-game margin in that tie.
(For tickets to the Indian Aces matches, click here).
The Singapore Slammers, for their part, lost decisively to the UAE Royals, who beat them 26-20, losing every set except the men’s singles (which was won by Australian ace Nick Kyrgios). But they bounced back yesterday, earning a narrow 26-24 victory over the Philippine Mavericks. The highlight of their win was a sensational performance by Karolina Pliskova, who managed to defeat Serena Williams in the women's singles.
The Indian Aces suffered a blow today, as the athletic Frenchman Gael Monfils, who played the Warriors’ Kei Nishikori on Day 1 in the men’s singles, sat out the tie due to an injury which will likely cause him to remain benched for the remainder of the tournament. He was replaced by doubles specialist Ivan Dodig.
That didn't matter all that much though, as the Aces clawed back from a slow start to ultimately reign supreme. Here's a look at how each of the sets transpired:
Men’s Legend Singles: Fabrice Santoro (Indian Aces) vs Carlos Moya (Singapore Slammers)
Fabrice Santoro, who is also the coach for the Indian Aces, was up against his younger legends’ counterpart Carlos Moya first up. The Frenchman has appeared in more Grand Slam singles matches than any other player, and although he never won a singles Grand Slam, while Moya is a former French Open singles champion, it is Santoro who has looked the stronger player in the tournament.
The Frenchman was at his crafty best today again, routinely chasing down impossible shots and making Moya hit an extra ball to draw the error. He also displayed his trademark finesse in the early going, using his slices and changes of pace to unsettle the Spaniard.
But Moya was up to the task, and looked to overpower Santoro from the baseline. The pair went to a shootout today, level at 5-5, with Moya managing that tie and with it the first set of the match.
Result: Moya def. Santoro 6-5
Women’s singles: Karolina Pliskova (Singapore Slammers) vs Samantha Stosur (Indian Aces)
Many had expected 18-year-old Belinda Bencic, who has had a magnificent year on the tour, to play Australia’s Samantha Stosur in today's singles set. However, the Slammers chose instead to play Pliskova, who made a huge splash yesterday by defeating Serena Williams.
Pliskova is ranked higher than her Australian counterpart, and the tie went according to form, with the Czech drawing first blood to break her opponent and take a 2-1 lead. She got home fairly comfortably in the end, winning 6-4 as she took the second straight victory for the Slammers.
At this point, the Singapore Slammers had a healthy 12-9 lead.
Result: Pliskova def. Stosur 6-4
Men’s doubles: Melo/Brown (Singapore Slammers) vs Dodig/Bopanna (Indian Aces)
With Monfils injured, doubles specialist Ivan Dodig stepped in to partner Rohan Bopanna. Three of the four players on court were now doubles specialists, so this was bound to be a close contest.
Dodig and Melo, who are normally doubles partners and played together most recently at the ATP World Tour Finals, found themselves on opposite sides of the net today.
Predictably, the teams fought closely until the Aces broke to go 4-2, but the set eventually went to 5-4 as the Singapore Slammers served to stay in the set. Bopanna and Dodig chose the perfect moment to break them, however, winning the third set 6-4 – the first set win for the Indian Aces.
With this victory the Indian Aces narrowed the Slammers’ lead to 16-15.
Result: Bopanna/Dodig def. Melo/Brown 6-4
Mixed doubles: Bencic/Melo (Singapore Slammers) vs Mirza/Bopanna (sub Ivan Dodig) (Indian Aces)
Pliskova, who had played well with Brazilian doubles champion Melo earlier, sat out the doubles with teenage sensation Belinda Bencic partnering him instead. On paper, Bopanna and Mirza, who is the world’s no. 1 doubles player with partner and former Singles World No. 1 Martina Hingis, looked firm favourites to win, and they did not disappoint, although things did not go entirely as expected.
Taking their first game, the Aces immediately called for a substitution, with Dodig called in to replace Bopanna. That move went well, with the Aces breaking the Slammers to take a 2-0 lead. This prompted the Slammers to make a substiitution of their own, although whether or not this was well-advised is up for debate.
Nick Kyrgios came on for Marcelo Melo, with the Slammers later managing to break serve, although this came a bit too late as they narrowed the deficit to 5-2.
The Aces eventually won that set 6-3, and with it took the team to a 21-19 lead.
Result: Mirza/Dodig def. Bencic/Kyrgios 6-3
Men’s singles: Nick Kyrgios (Singapore Slammers) vs Ivan Dodig (Indian Aces)
An in-form Kyrgios was widely expected to go up against the enigmatic Gael Monfils in this set, but the Australian eventually had to face his replacement, Ivan Dodig.
The much-lower ranked Dodig (at 87 on the ATP rankings) is more proficient in doubles, and the fiery Kyrgios, who has been dancing across court and making some brilliant shots at this year’s edition of the IPTL, was expected to rout the Croat.
But that certainly did not happen.
The two were level four games in, with the set at 2-2, until Dodig played out of his skin to turn the match on its head. Taking an eventual 5-3 lead against the Australian, Dodig served for the match and won quite convincingly, utterly outplaying Kyrgios to take a 6-3 victory.
That sealed the set and the day’s tie for the Indian Aces, who came back from two sets down to win 27-22.
Result: Dodig def. Kyrgios 6-3
Overall result: Indian Aces def. Singapore Slammers 27-22