IPTL 2015 Preview: Can the Singapore Slammers derail the confident Indian Aces?
The 2015 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) has looked like a cakewalk for defending champions Indian Aces so far. They have been compact and solid and have shown the strongest team bonding amongst all five outfits in the second season of the IPTL.
It is no surprise, then, that they are currently leading the standings, having suffered just one loss.
The Fabrice Santoro-led team will look to extend their dominant run further but will first have to overcome the challenge of the second-placed Singapore Slammers. The top two teams clash at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Wednesday, and it promises to be a humdinger.
Can the Singapore team spring a surprise? We analyze:
Women’s singles: Agnieszka Radwanska vs Belinda Bencic (probable)
Indian Aces’ Agnieszka Radwanska has had an excellent outing at the league so far. The Pole, who made her IPTL debut this year, remains unbeaten with five wins.
She has conceded a total just of nine games since the beginning of the Delhi leg, which makes her one of the standout performers at this year’s IPTL.
However, she needs to be wary of her next opponent – Singapore Slammers’ Belinda Bencic. The two have met in two finals in 2015 and have one victory apiece. Having won their last meeting in Tokyo, the Pole should be a slight favourite.
But the 18-year-old Swiss does have the capability of pushing Radwanska to the brink with her effortless movement and her stupendous forehand. If the young Swiss can find her form, she can definitely spoil Radwanska’s unblemished record.
Men’s singles: Bernard Tomic vs Andy Murray (probable)
Bernard Tomic made his IPTL debut in Dubai, replacing the Aces’ Rafael Nadal. Filling in Rafa’s shoes is in itself a huge task, and the Australian carries enormous responsibility on his shoulders.
Tomic’s maiden appearance against the Japan Warriors did not turn out to be auspicious as he succumbed to a 3-6 defeat against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Obviously, the 18th-ranked Aussie is under pressure to deliver and he is right now the formidable Aces’ weakest player. He did defeat Ivo Karlovic in the tie against the Philippine Mavericks, but his next opponent – Andy Murray – is not going to make things easy for Tomic.
The World No. 2 holds a 3-0 head-to-head record over the Australian, and each of those victories was achieved in straight sets. This is indeed a tall order for Tomic and the odds are heavily in favour of Murray.
That said, Tomic did have a pretty consistent 2015 season and broke into the top 20 for the first time. He can definitely try and make this set competitive.
Legends’ singles: Fabrice Santoro vs Carlos Moya (probable)
The last time the former World No. 1 Carlos Moya and the three-time doubles Major winner Fabrice Santoro met at the IPTL2 was during the Kobe leg, when the Spaniard edged past the Frenchman 6-5. Since then, as the matches have progressed, Santoro has thrived more and more, regaling the crowds with his scintillating shot-making.
With the Aces doing so well, the Frenchman is undoubtedly coming into this tie with a lot of confidence. Although he didn’t take the court today against the Mavericks, with Rohan Bopanna filling in for him, Santoro would likely return to action come tomorrow.
Moya, on the other hand, has lost two of his subsequent four sets since that clash with Santoro. That is definitely not a desirable scenario before facing a player against whom he has a losing 1-3 career record. He needs to be on the alert right from the first ball, or else Santoro’s fine movement and trick shots will make it a tough ordeal for the Spanish baseliner.
Santoro’s participation is now under doubt, however, with the quick Frenchman sitting out the Indian Aces’ tie as he was replaced by Rohan Bopanna in the legends’ singles.
The Frenchman is allegedly under the weather, so it’s possible Bopanna may reprise his role again today – and in Moya will face a new opponent entirely.
Men’s doubles: Bopanna/Dodig vs Melo/Kyrgios (probable)
Rohan Bopanna and Ivan Dodig subjected the Slammers to a 6-4 loss the last time the Slammers and the Aces squared off in the men’s doubles. It was the pair of Marcelo Melo and Dustin Brown who represented the Slammers then, while this time Brown looks likely to be replaced by Nick Kyrgios, who has been in scintillating form.
Unfortunately for the Singapore franchise, that probably would not make a lot of difference, given how the Aces have fared so far. Bopanna has looked menacing with his colossal serve and brilliant footwork, and his partner Dodig too has impressed everyone with his wonderful interceptions and spectacular lunging volleys.
The Melo-Kyrgios duo does boast of a big-hitting game and can certainly make things interesting. But with the Aces’ burgeoning confidence, it is hard to see them lose this one.
Mixed doubles: Bopanna/Mirza vs Brown/Pliskova (probable)
Sania Mirza has been simply phenomenal at the IPTL2; the ease with which she has been controlling the ball is outstanding. Thunderous forehands or deft touches at the net – she has been doing it all efficiently. Needless to say, having her gives any team an added advantage.
The Bopanna-Mirza pair have been working like magic, regularly heaping misery on their opponents. And the Dustin Brown-Karolina Pliskova duo too doesn’t look likely to escape from their clutches, even though the German-Czech combine does have a lot of firepower and big strokes.
Note: The singles and doubles match-ups are as per our assumptions for the most obvious player combinations. They are subject to change if one or more of the players are unavailable from either team, or if the team managements decide to change the combinations based on current form.