The Indian Aces and Philippine Mavericks were neck and neck a few days ago after the latter's 25-24 win at Manila. Milos Raonic pulled off a stunner to beat Rafael Nadal in a sudden death shootout, with the entire match hinging on that one point.
But the Aces had sweet revenge in the absence of Raonic and Richard Gasquet (doubles) in their home leg in New Delhi, and routed the Mavericks 30-12 in the most one-sided game of the tournament.
Now the IPTL has moved on to Dubai and the two teams will be pitted against each other once more. The neutral fans would be hoping for a repeat of the first match (not necessarily the result, but the competitive level) and not the second; no one likes to see a one-sided contest, after all.
The Aces will be without Nadal this time, but they are atop the table with six wins of seven and a game winning percentage of 57.7. The Mavericks have come tumbling down in the third leg, going from a close second to fourth with four wins out of seven matches and a game win percentage of 48.8.
Let’s take a look at what we can expect from a depleted field encounter between the two teams.
Men’s singles: Ivan Dodig vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Probable)
Neither of the two men is a first choice singles player for the team. But with the departure of Nadal the Indian Aces will once again field Croatian Ivan Dodig in the men's singles tie.
The Mavericks on their part would have loved to have the services of Raonic who defeated Nadal in the first tie between the two teams, but the Canadian had to withdraw midway to rest his aching back upon the advice of doctors. That means the singles set tomorrow will be between Dodig and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
The 30-year-old Dodig, ranked 87th, holds the upper hand over the Frenchman, who doesn’t feature in the top 100. Dodig was unbeaten in the tournament until the Delhi leg when he played the singles and doubles against Japan Warriors and lost both sets.
But Roger-Vasselin too would be coming off two defeats, to Nick Kyrgios in singles and to Kyrgios/Melo in the doubles, which makes this a tough match-up to call.
Women’s singles: Agnieszka Radwanska vs Ajla Tomljanovic (Probable)
On paper, it is a no-contest between the 5th ranked Polish player Radwanska and the 65th ranked Tomljanovic from Croatia. Radwanska has steamrolled her opponents so far, winning all three singles sets in the Delhi leg. Meanwhile Tomljanovic, in her more recent set, tasted defeat against Belinda Bencic.
The challenge will only get stiffer against the wily Radwanska who has a bag full of trick shots. But surprisingly, they are tied on the head-to-head with 1 win each, with Radwanska beating Tomljanovic on grass in the Round of 64 at Wimbledon 2015.
Still, Radwanska is the Aces’ best player in the absence of Nadal and the most reliable, beating Warriors’ Kurumi Nara in her last set 6-2 with ease. It would be surprising to see a result much different from that tomorrow.
Men’s doubles: Bopanna/Dodig vs Huey/Roger-Vasselin (Probable)
The last time Bopanna and Dodig paired up, they lost 5-6 to Paes/Herbert of the Japan Warriors. The other two sets during the Delhi leg were played by Bopanna/Nadal and they won both.
Dodig has to find the touch that saw him go undefeated in the first two legs of this year’s IPTL and he will have plenty of support from Bopanna. The Indian is in pretty good form, winning all the mixed doubles ties with Sania Mirza and both doubles ties in the previous leg.
The Huey/Roger-Vasselin pair for the Mavericks lost their last set against the powerful pair of Kyrgios/Melo 5-6. The visitors are relatively weakened by the departure of Gasquet, with whom Roger-Vasselin had won three sets in a row.
Although on paper this is a first of sorts for the two pairs, Bopanna and Dodig hold the edge.
Mixed doubles: Bopanna/Mirza vs Huey/Gajdosova (Probable)
The Indian Aces have their mixed doubles pair of Bopanna and Mirza to thank for their position atop the standings. The pair refuses to lose, winning their last three sets 6-4, 6-4 and 6-2 against the Royals, Warriors and Mavericks respectively.
The Huey/Gajdosova pair from the Mavericks lost 5-6 to the Slammers’ pair of Brown and Pliskova in their last tie. The team then went with Huey/Tomljanovic in their previous fixture against the Aces, but lost 2-6 to Bopanna/Mirza.
Clearly, the Mavericks don’t have a settled team for mixed doubles, especially after Serena Williams left the equation at the completion of the Manila leg. Bopanna/Mirza have a distinct upper hand and given that every game counts, the Mavericks have to hope that Huey and Gajdosova take it close if not win the match, a tough proposition in itself.
Legends' singles: Fabrice Santoro vs Mark Philippoussis
This is the match to look forward to, considering the two players are now even in their head-to-head this season. Santoro, the Aces coach and Legend lost the first set 4-6 against Mark Philippoussis in the Manila leg. But the Australian then lost 1-6 in a one-sided encounter at Delhi, despite his powerful groundstrokes and big serving.
Philippoussis' unforced errors and double faults also caused him to suffer a defeat at the hands of Carlos Moya of the Singapore Slammers, losing 4-6.
Santoro on the other hand has won the last three sets he's played and he seems to be rediscovering his full array of strokes. The Frenchman has the edge, but fatigue after three fixtures at Delhi could be a factor against Philippoussis, who badly needs to win this to save his team.