IPTL 2015: UAE Royals go down 18-30 to Indian Aces; Berdych puts up spirited performance against Nadal
The UAE Royals had looked very strong coming into this match, having lost only one of their ties so far – yesterday, against home side Philippine Mavericks. Neither team lacked for firepower, with a former World No. 1 on each side.
‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal, the marquee signing and captain of the Indian Aces, made his IPTL debut today, walking on to the court amid thunderous applause and cheers from the Manila crowd. And his presence made a huge difference, as the Aces came up trumps through some strong performances across the board.
(For tickets to the UAE Royals matches, click here).
Here's a look at how each of the sets unfolded:
Mixed Doubles: Mirza/Bopanna (Indian Aces) vs Mladenovic/Nestor (UAE Royals)
While Bopanna and Mirza have stitched together a formidable partnership, Mladenovic and Nestor have two titles together, making them the automatic favourites in this set. But the Indian duo were in fine form today, moving quickly across the court as and serving well – they hit six aces to their opponents’ one.
Mirza and Bopanna also dominated off the ground, smacking 13 winners, while Mladenovic and Nestor only managed six. The all-Indian Indian Aces pair took a 6-4 victory, giving their team an early lead in the tie.
Result: Mirza/Bopanna def. Mladenovic/Nestor 6-4
Women's singles: Samantha Stosur (Indian Aces) vs Ana Ivanovic sub. Kristina Mladenovic (UAE Royals)
Australia's Sam Stosur came into this tie on the back of consecutive losses to Maria Sharapova and Karolina Pliskova, and was up today against a former world no. 1 in Ana Ivanovic, the favourite to win today’s tie. Ivanovic on her part fresh off a loss to World No. 1 Serena Williams of the Philippine Mavericks yesterday, having gone down 6-3 to the World No. 1.
Stosur leads Ivanovic in their head-to-head by a single match, but today she overwhelmed the Serb, who looked nervous and unsure with her footwork. A faltering Ivanovic was replaced by Kristina Mladenovic, but the substitution provided no relief for the Royals, who couldn't counter the big serve of the Australian ace.
Stosur took a strong 6-3 victory to give her team, the Indian Aces, a 12-7 lead.
Result: Stosur def. Mladenovic 6-3
Legends’ singles: Fabrice Santoro (Indian Aces) vs Goran Ivanisevic (UAE Royals)
French legend Santoro has beaten the tall Croat in both their two previous career meetings, which would no doubt have been a source of comfort for fans of the Aces. But Ivanisevic has one of the strongest serves ever seen in tennis, and with an extensive arsenal of shots had already defeated former World No. 1 Marat Safin at this year’s IPTL.
However, it’s been hit-and-miss for the Croat, who has only mustered five aces in a total of three sets he has played so far. And his inconsistency returned to haunt him, as he was thoroughly outplayed by Santoro today.
Although the pair hit an identical number of aces and winners – one and nine respectively, the key to Santoro’s victory lay in the fact that he committed only four unforced errors to his rival’s whopping 14. He beat Ivanisevic 6-3, to take his team to an 18-10 lead.
Result: Santoro def. Ivanisevic 6-3
Men’s doubles: Nadal/Dodig (Indian Aces) vs Nestor/Berdych (UAE Royals)
Each side of the net now had one singles and one doubles specialist; Nadal joined doubles expert Dodig for the Aces, and Berdych teamed up with Canada's Daniel Nestor for the Royals. The Royals came into today on the back of a 3-6 defeat at the hands of the French Manila Mavericks pair of Richard Gasquet and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, and did not have momentum on their side.
Although Dodig had previously partnered doubles champion Rohan Bopanna, today he played with former World No. 1 Nadal on his side. Dodig had been instrumental in his team’s previous victory over the Singapore Slammers, and brought that firepower to today’s match too.
The Aces pair hit fewer aces than their competitors, but committed only five unforced errors to the Royals’ eight. Nadal looked to be on song as he glided around court to fend off the strong serves of Berdych, and the Indian Aces took victory and strengthened their extensive lead.
With a 6-3 victory, the Aces led 24-13.
Result: Nadal/Dodig def. Nestor/Berdych 6-3
Men's singles: Rafael Nadal (Indian Aces) vs Tomas Berdych (UAE Royals)
This was the match most spectators had waited for. With the crowd already having erupted in cheers as Nadal took court ahead of the tie, he was the clear crowd favourite, and the former No. 1 did not disappoint.
Berdych meanwhile was fresh off a surprise loss to the big-serving Milos Raonic of the Mavericks, which wasn't a good omen for him considering the opponent he was up against. Add to this the obvious crowd support for Nadal, which would not have done Berdych’s morale any favours.
He had one major thing going for him, however – the Czech beat the Spanish ace earlier this year at the Australian Open, and would have taken plenty of confidence from that. And Berdych did not go down quietly to Nadal today either.
The Czech played out of his skin, moving across the court with dexterity as he managed to break Nadal twice during the course of the match. He also hit a mammoth five aces to Nadal’s single one, and took the final set to a shootout, which Nadal eventually won to seal the set 6-5.
Standout performances from both Berdych and Nadal ensured an entertaining end to what was otherwise largely a one-sided tie.
Result: Nadal def. Berdych 6-5