IPTL 2015: Singapore Slammers dominate Indian Aces to confirm same match-up in the final
It was the Singapore Slammers who halted the Indian Aces’ juggernaut earlier in the tournament, having defeated them the last time the teams met in Dubai. Although a significant part of that was due to the Aces’ in-form legend Fabrice Santoro being ill, the result certainly put a seed of doubt into the defending champions’ minds.
Now on the Singapore Slammers’ home ground, the Aces were playing for revenge and a spot in the finals. But unfortunately for them, it would be a repeat of the Dubai story, with the Stan Wawrinka-bolstered Slammers putting in a fine display of power tennis.
Here’s how the tie unfolded:
Legends’ singles: Fabrice Santoro (Indian Aces) vs Carlos Moya (Singapore Slammers)
The wily Santoro, who has impressed mightily at the 2015 IPTL, sat out the Aces’ two previous ties after suddenly taken ill. His absence played a part in the Aces’ last loss against the Slammers, with a walkover going Moya’s way.
The Frenchman returned to play today, and on the back of his previous performances looked the favourite going in. He was not up to his pre-illness level of play, however, and slumped to a 2-6 loss to Moya as he played an uncharacteristically error-strewn game.
Moya’s defeat would give his team, the home side Singapore Slammers, a 6-2 lead.
Result: Moya def. Santoro 6-2
Men’s singles: Bernard Tomic (Indian Aces) vs Stan Wawrinka (Singapore Slammers)
Wawrinka made his IPTL singles debut at the Slammers' match with the UAE Royals, facing off against rival, compatriot and Davis Cup teammate Roger Federer. The pair have won Olympic gold together, and in the end it was Federer who defeated the 'Stanimal.'
Meanwhile, Tomic broke into the ATP top 20 this year, and has been in good nick. But if their most recent meeting at the ATP Paris Masters was anything to go by, things were in favour of the Swiss.
Well into today’s set, however, it was Tomic who dominated the set, leading the Swiss 5-2 as he looked ready to upset the World No. 4.
To describe what happened next as a ‘late charge’ would be a disservice to Wawrinka. The Swiss rediscoverd the full force of his power-packed arsenal, taking the next three games in a row to equalise at 5-5 – with his glorious backhand on full display.
The set then went to a shootout, and it was Wawrinka who would win that 7-4, sealing the set 6-5 in favour of the Slammers.
The Swiss’ win took his team to a 12-7 lead.
Result: Wawrinka def. Tomic 6-5
Women’s singles: Svetlana Kuznetsova (Indian Aces) vs Belinda Bencic (Singapore Slammers)
WTA Finals winner Agnieszka Radwanska, the Aces’ women’s singles star, was replaced by two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. Making her IPTL debut, the former World No. 2 went up against the higher-ranked Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who has won two WTA titles this year – one against World No. 5 Radwanska.
The 18-year-old Swiss has shown her rivals she is not to be taken lightly. But although she is higher-ranked than Kuznetsova, it is the Russian who has a wealth of skill and experience Bencic does not, with Grand Slams in both singles and doubles.
The pair previously met on the professional circuit at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in 2014, and the result went the way of the Swiss, who decimated Kuznetsova in straight sets, even bageling her in the second.
Today’s tie appeared to be a continuation of that, as Bencic won 81% of her first serves, committing fewer errors than her Russian rival to win the set 6-2. Bencic’s victory took the Slammers to an 18-9 lead.
Result: Bencic def. Kuznetsova 6-2
Mixed doubles: Mirza/Bopanna (Indian Aces) vs Pliskova/Brown (Singapore Slammers)
The last time the pairs went head-to-head, the Slammers pair took Bopanna and Mirza to a shootout and they emerged victorious over their rivals. The Indian Aces pair were now looking to avenge that defeat, and they seemed fully dialed-in right from the start.
Although Bopanna and Mirza have appeared unstoppable, Brown and Pliskova subjected doubles Slam winner Kristina Mladenovic and former World No. 1 Roger Federer to an ignominous 2-6 defeat in their last tie against the UAE Royals, and today’s match promised to be a close contest.
Expectedly, the contest went evenly, with each side holding sere as both Brown and Bopanna exhibited immense precision, each managing to bisect the opposing side with accurate winners.
In the end, it was the pair of Bopanna and Mirza who, with 14 winners, outplayed their Slammers opponents to win the set 6-4.
Their victory narrowed the Slammers’ lead slightly, with the Aces now trailing 15-22 and the home team already having won the tie.
Result: Mirza/Bopanna def. Pliskova/Brown 6-5
Men’s doubles: Bopanna/Dodig (Indian Aces) vs Melo/Kyrgios (Singapore Slammers)
Dodig and Melo were partners in victory at Roland Garros this year, and the two are very familiar with one another’s game. The Slammers’ fiery Nick Kyrgios has also been in strong form, as has Indian ace Rohan Bopanna.
In what was arguably the most evenly contested of the night’s sets, the two sides fought hard despite the Aces already having lost. Although the Slammers pair outplayed the Aces statistically, Bopanna in particular was on song today, displaying his athleticism to go across the court for several impossible shots.
The set went to a shootout – the second of the night – and this time too it went the way of the Indian Aces as a shot from Bopanna wrapped the set up.
The Indian Aces took a 6-5 victory in the final set, taking the overall tally to 27-21 in the set, which went the way of the Singapore Slammers.
Result: Bopanna/Dodig def. Melo/Kyrgios 6-5